James Delingpole

Two shops. Two philosophies. Which side are you on?

Some things are Aldi. Other things are Lush. I’m Aldi all the way

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

Are you Lush or are you Aldi? Me, I’m Aldi all the way. So much so that when someone — usually my daughter — tries to drag me anywhere near one of Lush’s painfully ubiquitous high street cosmetics shops, I respond a bit like the Antichrist does in the ‘it’s just a church, Damien’ scene in The Omen, writhing and shrieking like I’m about to be dissolved in acid. (Which, funnily enough, is rather how my skin feels when I’ve treated myself to one of Lush’s fizzing bath bombs)

Not, it must be said, that there is anything remotely Antichrist-like about hating Lush. On the contrary, it is the perfectly natural response of any civilised, intelligent, moral human being. What’s wrong with Lush? Everything is wrong with Lush, but in a nutshell, it’s this: that it’s not so much a shop as a marketing trick; a candy-coloured, berry-scented, personally gift-wrapped exercise in organic, ethnically sourced, fair-trade turd-polishing.

If Lush were a circus, it would be touchy-feely, painfully right-on and thrill-free Cirque Du Soleil. If it were a movie, it would be something like that overstyled, hyper-whimsical Wes Anderson picture The Grand Budapest Hotel. If Lush were a Mr Benn episode, it would be the spaceman one where he goes to another planet and picks up lots of jewels only to discover on bringing them back to Festive Road that they’re all just rocks.

You go in and it’s all so seemingly enticing: the handwritten-esque labels done in the overexcitable decorative style of girls called Bekki who draw a circle over the ‘i’ instead of a dot; the gaudy chunks of rippled soap which look and smell more delicious than cake; the hovering assistants who want to be like your bestest friend ever and make you feel so thrilled and validated by your purchase that it’s like you’ve got a new boyfriend, a pony and an Anya Hindmarch bag rolled into one.

Look, I’m not knocking the elegantly cynical business model. Nor the sweet if hyper-enthusiastic customer service. But let’s not kid ourselves that there’s anything innocent or homespun or altruistic or counter-cultural about it. For all its support of right-on causes (Lush is aggressively anti-Israel, anti-foxhunting, anti-animal testing, pro-UK Uncut) Lush is really just another ugly vulture capitalist — buying very cheap ingredients and selling them very dear.

Now compare the Lush experience with the Aldi one, which is pretty much the exact opposite. Take Aldi’s 30-day-aged Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak, which sells for less than a fiver, and is as well-marbled, buttery and flavoursome as anything you’d find for twice the price in an upmarket butcher. Or its single-estate, Italian extra virgin olive oil, which invariably wins every competition going and retails for less than a fifth of the £20 it ought to cost. Or its fine wine selection, especially around Christmas, when you can pick up a very decent Puligny-Montrachet for a good tenner less than in Waitrose.

How can Aldi afford to do this? By keeping its product range short and sweet; by keeping its margins ultra-tight; by training its staff to behave differently from those ditzy girls in Lush. You wouldn’t call them rude, exactly. But they’re definitely brisk, processing your groceries with an alacrity which would appal those lovely, warm mumsy types and bright graduates up the road at Waitrose.

Shopping at Aldi takes a bit of getting used to, it’s true. At first, you might find yourself thinking: ‘So this is what it’s like to pick up your social security cheque.’ But though there’s definitely a bit of a wartime feel to the spartan atmosphere (not to mention in the presence of all those displaced refugees from Poland, Romania, etc; plus all those weird own-brand names you’ve never encountered before), there’s also a Blitz-spirit camaraderie and sense of purpose. You’re not there for the thrills or to linger in the aisles (let alone at the till, which you can’t because the bagging area has been made so small). You’re there to buy stuff you need, very cheap, and get out as quickly as possible.

Last half-term I did three shops in one weekend with the kids: Tesco for cheap sweets (total cost £20); Waitrose for posh stuff (e.g. that extra cream Jersey milk I like: total cost £37); and Aldi for the basics (£24). The Aldi trip was by far the most satisfying, a) because it was the only one that was genuinely necessary and b) because it wasted the least time and c) because I came away, as I always do, blown away at having bought so much stuff for so little.

But it’s not merely because I’m a cheapskate that I so love Aldi and so loathe Lush. Rather, it’s that they seem to me emblematic of two very different ways of looking at the world, one of which is about creating real value and treating customers with respect, the other about flimflam, folderol, smoke-and-mirrors, style over content; one of which has a philosophy I admire, the other one which I find specious and noisome (and desperately, outmodedly Nineties).

Here are a few more things that are Aldi: Michael Gove; Nigel Farage; gold bullion; lamb’s liver; Greats at Oxford; summer holidays in Britain; Breaking Bad; fossil fuels; the Queen; the Commonwealth; British racing green E-type Jaguars.

And here are some things are definitely Lush: David Cameron; the Green party; quantitative easing; wheatgrass smoothies; PPE at Oxford; Barbados; Broadchurch series two; wind farms; the European Union; the Toyota Prius.

Now do you see why you’re so definitely Aldi and so definitely not Lush?

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • Rik

    Works for me,substance over style,reality over fantasy i’m in.

    • the Joy of Six


  • logdon

    Not forgetting Lidl of course.

    In my opinion, even better than Aldi.

    My local branch has wide aisles, a calm and collected ambience, some quite wonderful food and amazingly friendly service.

    Oh, and then there’s the prices.

    • Call me Dave

      Please tell where ?Every Aldi and Lidl around our way are disgusting hovels with appalling customer service and an inability at the most basic level to retail. My wife and I went looking to be converted but almost ran back to our usual store. And am not fully convinced that their pricing is as good in reality vs its perception

      • logdon

        South West/Welsh border country.

        And I stand by what I said.

      • HJ777

        My mother’s local LIDL is a disgusting hovel, but my local LIDL is new, clean, bright, spacious and a pleasure to go to.

        I compared prices over about a month with ASDA. They’re 15-20% cheaper and it’s much quicker to get in and out. And their limited-period products are great fun (they even sell welding kit sometimes!).

        • hedgemagnet

          Yeah! Fun welding kit from Lidl. I’m sure the North Sea guys are all over it! I’m looking at a new motorbike lid to replace my ageing £300 Schoei and I see that Lidl are doing a flip-up from £34.95 tomorrow. Hold me back.

      • Fraziel

        i use Aldi regularly and the customer service is excellent, far better than any other supermarket, with extra tills opened immediately a queue of more than 5 people builds up. Lidl on the other hand has surly, unhelpful staff and massive queues often to the back of the shop. i complained once and they didnt even acknowledge my e mail. in saying that i got several bottles of grand cru champagne in lidl reduced to 9.99 a bottle, and yes it tasted superb.Both Lidl and Aldi are significantly cheaper than any other supermarket and on another planet as far as pricing is concerned to the likes of Sainsburys and Tesco.

  • agdpa

    How ghastly.

  • WFB56

    Another excellent article, particularly the last bit listing all the crap that’s definitely Lush.

    But, when can we expect your take on the demise of the head of the IPCC? Mark Steyn is out in front on this: http://www.steynonline.com/6827/nobel-pants-prize

  • JSC

    “…lamb’s liver…”
    Mmm…. now you’re talking! I know what I’m having for tea tonight!

    • pedestrianblogger

      Try pig’s liver instead. Just as tasty and you can be damn’ sure it ain’t bloody “halal”.

  • Ahobz

    Bet you own an iPhone, though.

    • jamesdelingpole

      Lush make iPhones? Say it ain’t so.

      • Ahobz

        Plenty of apple flavoured, sorry infused, products on their website. Apple is the Lush of consumer electronics, ” buying very cheap ingredients and selling them very dear.”

  • tmitsss

    Two of my favorites ALDI and Delingpole, good start to my day.

  • Farage will no doubt delight in being conjoined with this supermarket – a bit like getting spliced again to the Germans….. Gove on the other hand, you’ve lost me there.

  • souptonuts

    Lidl, Greats at Balliol. Tesco, media studies at Salford. Sainsburys?

  • Jambo25

    Have lived in Germany for periods of time so got used to Lidl, Aldi, Netto and other discounters without the snobbery that attended the early days of Lidl and Aldi in Britain. My wife and I use Lidl and Costco for our bulk shopping. We simply no longer shop at Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison’s etc.

    • Bonkim

      Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison are fighting back with lower prices.

      • Jambo25

        Still find Lidl cheaper

        • hedgemagnet

          But do you possess taste buds? Sorry to go against the trendy Aldidl love-in, but so much of their stuff really is bargain basement taste-wise.

          • Jambo25

            If I want really high quality meat or fish I’ll go to a private butcher or fishmonger. There’s quite a few of both in Edinburgh and environs and there’s a couple of butchers and game dealers near our other place down in Dumfriesshire that would knock your socks off. However, for day to day purchases I see no difference in quality between the big supermarket chains. Waitrose is simply a rip-off.

      • saffrin

        Yeah right, lower prices, smaller quantities.
        Customers have become aware of how the big supermarkets have been duping them, it will take more than low prices to win back that trust.
        It will take years.

    • MahatmaFarage

      Aldi is proper cool but you cannot beat Booths/MediaCityUK

      It’s not just for BBC types.

      • Johnwillettssocialist

        Errm…….something to do with aliens….?

  • jaz2

    Good lord Delingpole you do talk some rot. However on your own contemptible site I see you delete comments that criticize you (and then ban anyone who dares to criticise you) but leave up a comment calling for the murder, following “hundreds of hours” of rape, of teenage school girls.

    • the Joy of Six

      i’ll take a look

    • Kennybhoy


  • Dodgy Geezer

    …Tesco for cheap sweets (total cost £20);…

    Er… surely:

    Poundshop for the cheap sweets,
    Costco for the bulky basics,
    A Waitrose delivery for the few British things Costco doesn’t stock
    and try to get your wine shipper to drop by once the Waitose van has gone…

  • mumble

    “UK Uncut” – they oppose circumcision, then?

  • Sean L

    Mate you missed the most Aldi thing of the lot: old money, our own organically grown currency, and weights and measures. And the Routemaster bus. The consistently best value item in Aldi is the Moser Roth 85% cocoa chocolate for a £1. Lidl is an equally good shop for value and quality. Here in Tottenham we also have Turkish shops which beat them all for fresh fruit and veg, with many things half the price of Tesco.

  • Terence Hale

    “Two shops. Two philosophies. Which side are you on?”. I’m in Holland, Aldi is more expensive than Lidl. The service in Aldi who usually employ Polish people is difficult. Also with Aldi the prospects in your letter box do not represent its availability.

    • the Joy of Six


    • bionde

      I am in Italy and Lidl is excellent for basics and also fruit and veg. They also have an email whcih tells you the upcoming offers.
      We also have Eurospin. I don’t know if this is purely Italian but my local one is very cheap and excellent. I can buy in season fresh figs, porcini, chanterelles,fresh zucchini flowers, get freshly sliced prosciutto cut to order either by hand or machine, buy fresh pasta for 69 centesime for 500 gms and the butchery department is a franchise from a posh butchers in our nearest university town and sells exactly the same meat but at about 2/3rds of the price. I buy Fiorentina (T bone steak) for 16.99 kg which is to die for and lean mince, done freshly varies between 5.99 and 6.99 a kilo. I can buy calves liver, plenty for two for just over 2 euros! Keep your fingers crossed Eurospin crosses the channel.

  • Gilly Fraser

    I was right there with you on the Aldi front till you said it was Nigel Farage. If that’s the case – Morrisons here I come!

    • the Joy of Six


  • master

    david camerons pro hunting unlike LUSH!!!!

    • Johnwillettssocialist

      Oh no I’m forced into siding with Camo!

  • Gentleman Jim Crow

    That’s just how I feel about Starbucks.

  • Perseus Slade

    Let`s not forget the touch, feely, preachy Body Shop whose lamented leader left all her money to The Roddick Foundation (modestly named after herself).

    Follow the link http://www.theroddickfoundation.org to step into her sickenly smug and self-satisfied world.

    This foundation recently gave loadsamoney to CAGE.
    Bloody hell!

  • Jacques Protic

    Load of crap James Delingpole and whilst I have no money to waste on anything I do have taste buds and non-branded products from Aldi and Lidl are far inferior to products that have established a quality bench mark irrespective who sells them. Being ‘foreign’ with some Germanic roots I tried all Lidl and Aldi imported ‘delicacies’ and no proper German who values food would even think of giving it to their pets after trying them out. Not sure where Lush and being Anti Israel comes from unless you happen to be a Jew with some other agenda that escapes me for now?

    • Kennybhoy

      You were doing well until that last sentence…:-(

  • Dogsnob

    Ah, shopping. I have someone who takes care of that side of our operation. She loves all that stuff.

  • Guest

    LUSH are well known Israel-boycotters, so I have not set foot into any of their shop in years and years.
    They happily sell their products in such wonderfully diverse and free societies such as Saudi Arabia, China, etc (you get the point), but Israel is forbidden from opening a franchise – the only country in the entire region that sees Christian populations rising. They can go f themselves with their fragrant bath balls.

    • Helen of Troy

      Hear hear!

  • Elizabeth Ledsham Scott

    Have to agree with this article! I loath Lush – yuck to the smell! Love the choice in Aldi or Lidl and appreciate being able to see the whole shop. Of course, the value for money is important, too!

  • mikewaller

    One of the things that cruel bastard Pablov discovered was that what his poor animal subjects craved most of all was consistency of treatment be it harsh or kindly. What drove them to nervous breakdowns was an admixture. So too with me and JD. Like many of his TV reviews, this is a brilliantly insightful piece which exactly chimes with my own views on the shopping experience. Why then all the other tosh he serves up?

  • Andrew Yates

    Slightly twatish conclusion to the article which was going fine until that little listing of things which are Aldi and Lush. There is a completely hypocritical undercurrent to the whole of this article. Not to mention that Nigel Farage may as well fall into the Lush category for how false his own image is portrayed. Oh look at me, a pint of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other – I’m a real representative for the working class. Slowly we are having the wool pulled over our eyes, just like when we are enticed to buy a lush product and it brings your skin out in an unexpected rash “against animal testing”. I think we are going to experience quite the rash once Farage gets his foot in the door. And the Aldi list just represents a group of stuck up freeloaders who think they are bagging themselves a bargain when they probably wouldn’t even admit it to their friends. Of course I shop in Waitrose, I wouldn’t want to risk my Jaguar in those cramped Aldi car parks. Also didn’t I hear distinctly that Farage wants us to leave the EU… where again does Aldi originate… oh so much hypocrisy.

    • ramesesthegrumbler

      The stench puts me off going into Lush; I find it very hard to breath in there. It can’t be healthy for their staff either and seems to be turning some of them orange …

  • Helen of Troy

    I’m with Waitrose on that shore and Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods (in that order) on this one. Did Delingpole manage to get through a whole article without mentioning his louche attitude to s-x? Let me see.

    Update: I read it and he didn’t once mention the Greek word for prostitution. That’s one for Civilization, I’d say. So far, so good (even though James is an inveterate libertine

  • Tim Gilling

    While Lush is clearly beyond the pale let’s not knock Waitrose. Can’t see the Aldi version of the Milfs of Waitrose calendar catching on.

  • Lush also want to ban reptile keeping (because lefties are ALWAYS trying to ban something) and so as a reptile keeper, they’ll never get a penny of my money ever.

  • ubik

    I am so Aldi.
    But willing to switch as the weekly coupons are released.
    Hope Barack doesn’t issue a fatwa against low prices.

  • Antonia Robinson ن

    Lush makes my head spin – I feel ill just walking into the shops: it’s sensory overload (and the smell – ugh!). Aldi and Lidl I like because they do exactly what they set out to – no more no less. In general the products are excellent quality (Aldi detergent tops the WHICH? tests beating both big brands and other supermarket own-brands on a regular basis). I find that I do about a quarter of my shopping at Aldi, a quarter at Waitrose and around half in the local butchers, bakery, greengrocer and deli. A good balance of quality, price & supporting our village shops.

    I first discovered Lidl through necessity almost 10 years ago when my husband took voluntary redundancy and it took rather longer than expected (!) to get back to a regular income. We were living in London and I had £38 a week to feed a family of four (one pregnant) – although British for complicated reasons we had no state help – and between Lidl and the local market stalls we ate extremely well (although it was hard work). Back then – 2006 – butter was 42p/250g at Lidl. Even in the cheap supermarkets prices have gone up incredibly.

    I had traveled in former Eastern Bloc countries and Lidl reminded me very much of the sparse supermarket experience in Poland: you want tinned tomatoes – here – there’s one kind. Pasta? Spaghetti or Penne? One brand only. There’s something refreshing about not having too much choice, about not having to weigh BOGOF vs special offer vs own brand. And if the quality is up to scratch – then what’s not to like? So I became a convert.

    • NorfolkNman

      Tsk, those Which lists are going to bite retailers in the behind one of these days, its shocking the amount of money the retailer hands over to use those awards on their labels!
      I shopped at Aldi before it was fashionable here and i can remember the sliced bread and baked bean wars where they slashed the price to 3p and had to impose a limit of 4 per person. They were very Eastern block as you pointed out, the labels were multi language, staff were not employed for their friendly attitudes ( back in the day where they inputted the prices now and if they were caught looking at the key pad when entering prices they would end up in massive trouble and could be fired ) the queues were very long, people hated the fact of having to pay for a carrier bag, and hated that they couldn’t pack their shopping in the usual way at the tills. I think the multi priced choices are going to be their downfall in time. Take Aldi washing up liquid. The 59p green one has topped the scale in the review stakes many times, but now they have a 49p magnum everyday value in green that looks near on identical, and then you have the newer magnum power liquids to rival fairy platinum, the newer ranged items are rubbish in my eyes, as is the regular magnum apple, and lemon variants which have not won awards but the customer will buy them with that false sense of security. I think they now have three types of automatic dishwasher detergents, Magnum, Magnum all in one, and Magnum power. The first two are nothing to write home about, and made like any other cheap tablet, but the Magnum power are the equivalent to finish quantum and they do actually perform well. When you dig a bit deeper you will realize they were being sold in mainland Europe under the Sun detergent brand which is owned by Unilever. 85% of home cleaning items are made by Robert McBride who is a major player in the generic markets, they do sell some lines under the Clean & Fresh brand but they get nowhere near the volume of sales because people shop with their blinkers on and wouldn’t trust a cheap brand! The potato crisps sold are made by Kolak who make Lidl, Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco and more. You can tell when you look at a bag on the date code and see a k followed by a number to indicate what line they came from. All these deep discounts they use as a bargaining tool and i have to wonder who is losing out. Milk, bread, eggs, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce, sugar were around 50% higher in price not too long ago. I could write a book about the practices, but some already have so my closing statement is in ref to you saying whats not to like? Compare the prices more carefully next time you go and you may be a little annoyed. Broccoli 28p more than Tesco, Morrison, Asda. Haribo pack size shrinking and better value in a local corner shop……