(Dec. 26) The German retailer with the little stores has big growth plans for 2008.

Aldi Inc., which had been opening 20 to 30 stores a year in the U.S., plans to open 100 stores next year, said spokeswoman Tina-Marie Adams.

“The time is right,” Adams said. “With a potential recession looming, people are looking for good food at the lowest possible prices. Aldi’s prices are typically lower than even the stores that tout their low prices, and you don’t have to buy in bulk.”

Aldi, which has U.S. operations based in Batavia, Ill., has nearly 900 stores in 27 states from Kansas to the East Coast. The typical Aldi store is about 10,000 square feet.

“They always have the lowest possible price structure,” said Pewaukee, Wis.-based retail analyst David Livingston. “I don’t know of any grocer that sells lower than them. They follow a really smart system, which is to be located as close as possible to a Wal-Mart SuperCenter. They have lower prices than Wal-Mart, and that drives traffic to their stores.”

Livingston said Aldi has few competitors in its business model, with Portsmouth, Ohio-based Save-A-Lot being one exception. Livingston said that while Save-A-Lot offers a wider range of produce than Aldi’s two dozen or so items, Aldi rakes in about $600 per man-hour, which he said makes it three times as efficient as Save-A-Lot.

Adams said Aldi plans to open 70 to 100 stores a year in the next few years, with the retailer moving into Florida and Rhode Island in 2008 and Texas in 2009.