Lidl (German pronunciation: [ˈliːdl̩] LEE-dəl); UK: /ˈlɪdəl/ LID-əl) is a German international discount retailer chain[3] that operates over 12,000 stores across Europe and the United States.[4] Headquartered in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg, the company belongs to the Schwarz Group, which also includes hypermarket chain Kaufland.

Founded1932; 91 years ago (1932)
FounderJosef Schwarz
Number of locations
12,200 (2023)[1]
Area served
European Union
United Kingdom
United States
Key people
Kenneth McGrath (CEO), Dieter Schwarz (Chairman)
ProductsDiscount supermarket
Revenue114.8 billion (2022) [2]
Number of employees
360,000 (2023) [1]
ParentSchwarz Gruppe

Lidl is the chief competitor of the similar German discount chain Aldi in several markets.[5] There are Lidl stores in every member state of the European Union as well as in Serbia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

History Edit

Lidl store in Amsterdam, Netherlands

In 1932, Josef Schwarz became a partner in Südfrüchte Großhandlung Lidl & Co., a fruit wholesaler, and he developed the company into a general food wholesaler.[6][better source needed]

In 1977, under his son Dieter Schwarz, the Schwarz-Gruppe began to focus on discount markets, larger supermarkets, and cash and carry wholesale markets. Dieter did not want to use the name Schwarz-Markt (literally "black market") and wanted to use the name of his father's former business partner, A. Lidl, but legal reasons prevented him from using that name for his discount stores. When he discovered a newspaper article about a painter and retired schoolteacher Ludwig Lidl, he bought the rights to the name from him for 1,000 German marks.[7][8]

Lidl is part of the Schwarz Group, the fifth-largest retailer in the world with sales of €104.3 billion (2018).[9]

The first Lidl discount store was opened in 1973, copying the Aldi concept.[6] Schwarz rigorously removed merchandise that did not sell from the shelves, and cut costs by keeping the size of the retail outlets as small as possible. By 1977, the Lidl chain comprised 33 discount stores.

Lidl opened its first UK store in 1994.[10] Its grocery market share in the UK was 5.9% in 2019.[11]

Sven Seidel was appointed CEO of the company in March 2014, after the previous CEO Karl-Heinz Holland stepped down.[12] Holland had served as chief executive since 2008 but left due to undisclosed "unbridgeable" differences over future strategy. Seidel stepped down from his position in February 2017 after Manager Magazin reported he had fallen out of favour with Klaus Gehrig, who has headed the Schwarz Group since 2004. Seidel was succeeded as CEO by Dane Jesper Højer, previously head of Lidl's international buying operation.[13]

In June 2015, the company announced it would establish a United States headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.[14] Lidl has major distribution centers in Mebane, North Carolina, and Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The company initially focused on opening locations in East Coast states, between Pennsylvania and Georgia,[15] and as far west as Ohio.[16][17] In June 2017, Lidl opened its first stores in the United States in Virginia Beach, Virginia and other mid-Atlantic cities.[18] The company planned to open a total of one hundred U.S. stores by the summer of 2018.[5][18] In November 2018, Lidl announced plans to acquire 27 Best Market stores in New York and New Jersey.[19] In December 2018, Lidl opened its first location in New York City, in the Staten Island Mall. The company has continued to expand throughout the eastern U.S., with over 100 stores by the end of 2020. In August 2020, Lidl announced that it planned to open up another 50 stores in the U.S. by the end of 2021.[20]

In April 2022 Lidl has postponed the expansion in Ukraine due to war.[21]

Lidl has plans to phase out the selling of cigarettes in all its Dutch stores by 2024 as part of the 'smoke free generation'.[22]

Business model Edit

Map of countries in which Lidl is active
Interior of a Lidl store at Entrecampos railway station, Lisbon
A Lidl store in Greenville,
South Carolina, United States

Like fellow German supermarket Aldi, Lidl has a zero waste,[23] no-frills, "pass-the-savings-to-the-consumer" approach of displaying most products in their original delivery cartons, allowing the customers to take the product directly from the carton. When the carton is empty, it is simply replaced with a full one. Staffing is minimal.[24]

In contrast to Aldi, there are generally more branded products offered. Lidl distributes many low-priced gourmet foods by producing each of them in a single European Union country for its whole worldwide chain, but it also sources many local products from the country where the store is located. Like Aldi, Lidl has special weekly offers, and its stock of non-food items often changes with time. In contrast to Aldi, Lidl advertises extensively in its homeland of Germany.

Just as Aldi, Lidl does not play mood music in most countries, including Germany. Exceptions include stores in the United States, Ireland, Croatia, Spain (not all), Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Additionally, in two stores in Denmark music is played as a test. Lidl stores have PA systems for important announcements but do not broadcast commercials.

The Lidl operation in the United Kingdom took a different approach than in Germany, with a focus on marketing and public relations, and providing employee benefits not required by law, including paying the independently verified living wage and offering a staff discount.[25] Upmarket products were introduced, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. This required significant investment in marketing to produce sales growth but had an effect on Lidl's logistical operation and pressure on profits. Ronny Gottschlich, who had run Lidl GB for the six years to 2016, was responsible for this approach, which led to friction with head office, due to the cost involved. In September 2016, Gottschlich unexpectedly left and was replaced by the Austrian sales and operations director, German-national Christian Härtnagel.[26] Lidl continued to have ambitious investment plans in the United Kingdom, ultimately doubling the number of stores to 1,500. In the financial year of 2015, Lidl Great Britain's revenue from its over 630 stores throughout Britain was £4.7 billion.

Stores Edit

Lidl in Somain, France
Lidl in Santorini, Greece
Lidl in Tauberbischofsheim, Germany
Lidl in Fuengirola, Spain
Lidl in Bodmin, United Kingdom
Lidl in Amadora, Portugal
Lidl in Uherský Brod, Czech Republic

As of 2022 Lidl has a presence with stores in 31 countries.

Country Year opened No. of stores Ref.
Austria 1998 255 [27]
Belgium 1995 315 [28]
Bulgaria 2010 120 [29]
Croatia 2006 107 [30]
Cyprus 2010 20 [31]
Czech Republic 2003 316 [32]
Denmark 2005 144 [33]
Estonia 2022 12 [34]
Finland 2002 202 [35]
France 1989 1575 [36]
Germany 1973 3243 [37]
Greece 1999 232 [38]
Hungary 2004 197 [39]
Ireland 2000 174 [40]
Italy 1992 700 [41]
Latvia 2021 26 [42]
Lithuania 2016 70 [43]
Luxembourg 2001 13 [44]
Malta 2008 10 [45]
Netherlands 1997 440 [46]
Poland 2002 805 [47]
Portugal 1995 273 [48]
Romania 2011 338 [49]
Serbia 2018 67 [50]
Slovakia 2004 161 [51]
Slovenia 2007 64 [52]
Spain 1994 640 [53]
Sweden 2003 205 [54]
Switzerland 2009 169 [55]
United Kingdom 1994 948 [56]
United States 2017 177 [20]
Total 12,017 (listed)
12,200 (total)

Former markets Edit

Country Year opened Year closed Notes Ref.
Norway 2004 2008 Closed due to poor sales and political issues. [58]

Future markets Edit

A Lidl store under construction in Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Country Opening year Notes Ref.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2023 Under construction, first stores planned to open by 2023. A Lidl store in Bijeljina is already built, and in Sarajevo there is land being prepared for a second store. [59]
North Macedonia 2024 Under construction, first stores planned to open by 2024. [60]
Montenegro 2024 Under construction, first stores planned to open by 2024. [61]

Other services Edit

Lidl sometimes offers products made in-store, for example the products offered in this self-service bakery in a Greece store.

In October 2009, Lidl Movies was launched in the United Kingdom,[62] undercutting Tesco DVD Rental, which had previously been the United Kingdom's cheapest online rental service for DVDs. The service was powered by OutNow DVD Rental. OutNow went into liquidation in October 2011, taking Lidl Movies with it.[63]

In January 2012, Lidl launched bakeries in their stores across Europe. They consist of a small baking area with a number of ovens, together with an area where bread and pastries, such as croissants, are displayed for sale. The bakeries were initially trialed in a limited number of stores, to determine whether there was a demand for freshly baked products in-store.[64]

The mobile phone brand Lidl Connect was launched in Germany in October 2015 and in Austria and Switzerland in June and July 2019.

As of May 2019, Lidl US has partnered with to test a home delivery service using the online retailer's technology. Lidl also partners with Target Corp. subsidiary Shipt for grocery home delivery.[65]

Lidl also runs Representative Offices in China, Bangladesh, and Hong Kong, though there is no mention of Lidl stores opening in said countries. Their operations are likely limited to overseeing manufacturing contracts for most of non-food products, offered in Lidl stores, with local manufacturers based in these countries.

In April 2021, Lidl in Ireland started offering customers coupons to get free pads or tampons each month as an initiative against period poverty.[66]

In March 2023, Lidl was announced as the sponsor of the 2023 World Cycling Championship held in Scotland.[67]

In August 2018, Lidl introduced "Lidl Plus" supermarket loyalty card via an app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The app is available in most European countries that Lidl operates in, offering discounts on own brand products and on partner offers. The app also has, in several countries, a bonus program with cashback.

Criticism Edit

In 2008, Lidl was accused by journalists of spying on their workers, listening to private phone calls, and sometimes even following them home or to doctor's appointments.[68] In one instance, an employee's file was supposedly annotated to note that most of her friends were "drug users".[68] In another instance, a female worker at a Lidl store in the Czech Republic was allegedly forbidden from using the toilet during working hours. An internal company memo from the incident was made public as part of a court case, in which the company is alleged to have advised management "Female workers who have their periods may go to the toilet now and again, but to enjoy this privilege they should wear a visible headband". Some trade union activists have compared this behavior to that of American companies which engage in union busting, drawing the comparison to surveillance techniques used to proactively detect and stop union organizing activity within a place of business.[69] Lidl responded to these claims, stating that the surveillance was intended to prevent shoplifting, and to detect "abnormal behavior".[68]

Lidl has also been accused by trade unions in Germany of shutting down stores when workers elect worker councils or opt to engage in collective bargaining with a trade union.[70]

In October 2022, animal welfare NGOs across Europe accused Lidl of a ‘chicken scandal’. Investigation footage filmed on a Lidl supplier's farm in Germany showed sick and injured chickens unable to walk and lying in their own waste.[71] In November 2022, another investigation was published showing similar conditions at Lidl supplier farms in Spain.[72] Further investigations in Italy and Austria have also revealed severe chicken welfare issues. In the Austrian investigation footage, birds are seen attempting to eat the rotting carcasses of other dead chickens.[73] The chickens in the footage are fast-growing breeds, which reach their kill weight in just 35 days and have higher levels of mortality, lameness and muscle disease than slower-growing breeds.[74] NGOs have called on the supermarket to sign up to the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC), a set of welfare standards which prohibits the use of fast-growing breeds and requires the provision of more space and enrichment for chickens. While Lidl France already committed to the BCC in 2020, Lidl have so far not made a commitment for the rest of their European operations.[71]

References Edit

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External links Edit