Allow us to introduce you to a German retailer with small-ish stores for groceries and “surprise” items and steep discounts. Its name is four letters. And it is not Aldi.
The grocery chain, long established in Europe, is on an ambitious growth plan for 100 U.S. stores by mid-2018. The first of those are open in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
According to Business Insider, the company has plans to open as many as 600 stores nationwide.
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“When customers shop at Lidl, they will experience less complexity, lower prices, better choices and greater confidence.” Brendan Proctor, president and CEO of Lidl US, said in a news release in May announcing the first wave of U.S. stores to open this summer.
So, when are they coming here? Lidl’s not saying for now and did not respond to requests for comment from The News Tribune.
In general, their growth strategy is still in the works nationwide. To help guide its plans, the company brought on a former Walmart real estate executive this month, according to Supermarket News.
The chain was set to open four more stores in July: Chesapeake and Culpeper, Virginia, and Havelock and Wake Forest, North Carolina.
Additionally, it announced plans for a fourth regional headquarters and distribution center in Georgia.
Should we be excited if the company enters our own grocery wars in the Northwest?
Don Abrahamsen thinks so. He was impressed enough to capture on video the inside of his local store in Greenville, South Carolina, when it opened. He posted it to his YouTube channel, Homestead Handyman.
“We typically shop Trader Joe’s and Costco,” Abrahamsen responded via email to The News Tribune. “Now we have another choice.”
The selection of dark chocolate especially impressed him: “Their store brand was only 89 cents!”
That’s great for the Carolinas and Virginia. What about our region, the land of mega food giants Walmart, Safeway, Amazon (with its Go, Fresh and Pantry shopping options) and Kroger (with its Fred Meyer, QFC and Main & Vine)?
Kroger — the largest grocer chain in the United States, with nearly 3,000 stores, according to Business Insider — is not standing still. This month, it sued Lidl over trademark infringement in regard to its private-label “Preferred Selection” brand being too close to Kroger’s own “Private Selection,” a label familiar with local shoppers.
Lidl places an emphasis on locally sourced and organic food, which takes a bit of the glow off the initial excitement surrounding Amazon’s move to buy Whole Foods.
It also promises to undercut competitors with prices up to 50 percent cheaper.
A recent price check by Jefferies analysts, reported by Business Insider, showed Lidl already was about 9 percent cheaper than Walmart based on a basket price check of 20 items.
“The hard discounter threat is real and could prove highly disruptive over the next several years,” the analysts wrote.
Among the prices seen in the analysts’ report: bananas were 69 cents a pound at Walmart vs. 44 cents a pound at Lidl. Lidl’s lemons were a penny cheaper per pound, but avocados were a penny more.
Lidl’s private label potato chips weraldie cheaper than Walmart’s, as was Lidl’s tomato sauce, peanut butter and ketchup — also all private label.
Reuters reported earlier this year that Walmart is running price tests in 11 states, mainly in the Midwest and a stretch from Florida to Virginia, in a move to match the prices of German grocer Aldi, which operates much the way Lidl does.
Beyond pricing and heavy use of private labels, Lidl also plans to take up a smaller footprint than what is normally seen in U.S. grocers.
“All Lidl stores opening this summer will be newly constructed facilities, featuring a manageable, easy-to-shop layout of 20,000 square feet with only six aisles,” Lidl said in its May release.
And its “Lidl surprises,” the always-changing selection of non-food items, could be reminiscent of Costco or Big Lots to shoppers in this area, with a selection of such things as fitness gear, small appliances and outdoor furniture as described in Lidl’s May store announcements.
But for the South Sound? Stay tuned.
For now, you can download the official Android Lidl app.