Aldi Australia CEO Tom Daunt. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian
Aldi Australia CEO Tom Daunt. Picture: Hollie Adams/The Australian

Could you work at Aldi for $102k?

YOU don't need retail experience, but you do need a degree.

Aldi is hiring more than 50 area managers across the country as it continues to expand westwards, with successful applicants starting on a salary of $101,800 plus a fully expensed company car and phone.

The German discount supermarket says it looks for professionals from all sectors - 42 per cent of area managers come from a non-retail background, with 24 per cent consisting of former scientists, engineers, teachers, IT experts and psychologists.

"It's a great role, with amazing opportunities, so we receive a lot of applications - about 9000 per year," James Buonopane, corporate finance and administration director at Aldi Academy, said in an email interview.

Last year, former lawyer and Aldi area manager Kelly Wells revealed how she made the decision to leave the legal industry to work in retail, describing it as "one of the best things" she had ever done.

The area manager role is an executive position, with each person responsible for three to five stores, overseeing staff, recruitment, training, and profit-and-loss management.

"Our area managers have an enormous influence on the management and direction of our business, and are one of the key leadership roles we have," Mr Buonopane said. "Most of our top leaders today started their careers as area managers."

Ideal candidates would be "motivated, goal-oriented, and have a real desire to create a positive change for the thousands of people we employ, and the millions of shoppers we serve every year", he said.

Mr Buonopane said the supermarket liked to hire people from outside of the retail industry because "as a retailer, Aldi operates a little differently". "Because we operate differently, we care about hiring people who, first and foremost, have a great attitude and want to succeed," he said.

"We can then teach them about Aldi's unique business model and all the things that make it successful. After joining, we take area managers through an extensive 12-month training program, where we show them all the aspects of the retail business.

"That's why we're less focused on background and more focused on finding people with the right 'Aldi' attitude."

Applicants must have a Bachelor's degree or a Master's degree in any discipline, with a strong academic record. They must also have a "minimum of three years' business experience and proven success in leadership roles".

"A good area manager needs to be a self-starter," Mr Buonopane said. "Someone who is driven, likes setting goals and achieving them. But more than anything, a good area manager is someone who truly cares about people. People are at the core of the area manager role, and great area managers are passionate about getting the most out of their people."

He added that "no two days are the same" in the role. "Area managers have an enormous amount of variety and responsibility in their roles," Mr Buonopane said.

"When you're running three to five stores like they're your own business there are a lot of things to consider. Each day is going to be different - whether it's walking the shop floor with your managers, facilitating team meetings, training and developing your people, or diving into results and KPIs. It's all going to depend on the circumstances of that day, and tomorrow it will be different again."

The key challenge, he said, was the breadth of the role. "You can be doing anything from recruiting, analysing the results of a particular work area, training and developing your teams, and driving projects to be rolled out nationally," he said.

"Because of this breadth, one of the challenges that comes with the role is the ability to multitask and balance competing priorities.

"Another challenge is that it is a heavily people-focused role. Being an area manager is about bringing out the best in people, all of whom have different personalities and are motivated in different ways. Seeing people achieve their goals, however, is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job."

Retail is the second-largest employment sector in Australia, a "really dynamic industry that provides exposure to a broad array of business challenges", Mr Buonopane said. "You may not have thought about retail as a career before, but it's an incredibly rewarding and diverse industry, and the area manager role provides a great springboard in."

In October, new figures showed Aldi taking a bigger slice of the $100 billion supermarket sector, further eating into the market share of IGA and Foodland with its expansion into South Australia and WA.

IBISWorld's supermarket report put market share for Aldi on 8.6 per cent and Metcash on 7.5 per cent, compared with 7.9 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively 12 months earlier.

"The collective revenue from Metcash-supplied supermarkets has declined in 2016/17 and is expected to decline in 2017/18," IBISWorld senior industry analyst Nathan Cloutman said at the time.

"Aldi is rapidly expanding in the industry, in particular the company's move into WA and SA in 2016 has helped the company boost its market share recently."

Woolworths remained on top with 36.8 per cent market share, followed by Coles on 30.9 per cent. Costco had an estimated 2 per cent market share.

While Aldi says it consistently receives high scores in independent employee satisfaction surveys, not everyone has reported a happy experience.

Former checkout workers and managers have described how employees are required to meet strict performance quotas, such as scanning 1000 items per hour or unloading a certain number of pallets, or face performance reviews and potentially losing their job.

frank.chung@news.com.au

News Corp Australia

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