Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG (German pronunciation: [ˈliːdl̩]; UK: /ˈlɪdəl/ LID-əl) is a German international discount retailer chain[1] that operates over 12,000 stores across Europe and the United States.[2] Headquartered in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg, the company belongs to the Schwarz Group, which also operates the hypermarket chain Kaufland.

Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
TypePrivate Kommanditgesellschaft with a stiftung foundation as general partner
IndustryRetailing
Founded1973; 48 years ago (1973)
FounderJosef Schwarz
Headquarters,
Number of locations
11,200 in 28 European countries and the United States
Area served
Europe, United States
Key people
Gerd Chrzanowski (CEO), Dieter Schwarz (Chairman)
ProductsDiscount store
Revenue€ 57.000 billion
€ 1.951 billion
€ 1.287 billion
Total assets€ 36.706 billion
Number of employees
315,000
ParentSchwarz Gruppe
Websitelidl.com

Lidl is the chief competitor of the similar German discount chain Aldi in several markets.[3] There are Lidl stores in almost every member state of the European Union. Lidl stores are also present in Switzerland, Serbia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

HistoryEdit

 
European countries in which Lidl is active

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.[4]

In 1977, under his son Dieter Schwarz, the Schwarz-Gruppe began to focus on discount markets, larger supermarkets, and cash and carry wholesale markets. He did not want to use the name Schwarz-Markt (Schwarzmarkt means "black market") and rather use the name of Josef Schwarz's former business partner, A. Lidl, but legal reasons prevented him from taking over the name for his discount stores. When he discovered a newspaper article about the painter and retired schoolteacher Ludwig Lidl, he bought the rights to the name from him for 1,000 German marks.[5][6]

Lidl is part of the Schwarz Group, the fifth-largest retailer in the world with sales of €104.3 billion (2018).[7]

The first Lidl discount store was opened in 1973, copying the Aldi concept.[4] 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.[8] Its grocery market share in the UK was 5.9% in 2019.[9]

Sven Seidel was appointed CEO of the company in March 2014, after the previous CEO Karl-Heinz Holland stepped down.[10] 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.[11]

In June 2015, the company announced it would establish a United States headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.[12] 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,[13] and as far west as Ohio.[14][15] In June 2017, Lidl opened its first stores in the United States in Virginia Beach, Virginia and other mid-Atlantic cities.[16] The company planned to open a total of one hundred U.S. stores by the summer of 2018.[3][16] In November 2018, Lidl announced plans to acquire 27 Best Market stores in New York and New Jersey.[17] 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.[18]

Business modelEdit

 
A Lidl store in Greenville,
South Carolina, United States

Like fellow German supermarket Aldi, Lidl has a zero waste,[19] 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.[20]

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, Croatia, Spain (not all), Poland and Lithuania. 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.

StoresEdit

 
A Lidl store in Zaprešić, Croatia
 
A Lidl store in Seinäjoki, Finland
 
Interior of a Lidl store at Entrecampos railway station, Lisbon
 
Lidl store at Somain, Nord, France

As of 2021 Lidl was present in 33 countries.

Country Year opened No. of stores Ref.
Austria 1998 230 [23]
Belgium 1995 311
Bulgaria 2010 107 [24]
Croatia 2006 102 [25]
Cyprus 2010 18 [26][27]
Czech Republic 2003 276
Denmark 2005 125
Finland 2002 193 [28]
France 1989 1500
Germany 1973 3301 [29]
Greece 1999 232
Hungary 2004 172
Italy 1992 660 [30]
Ireland 2000 202 [31]
Latvia 2021 15 [32]
Lithuania 2016 59 [33][34]
Luxembourg 2001 10
Malta 2008 8
Netherlands 1997 411
Poland 2002 700 [35]
Portugal 1995 260
Romania 2011 291 [36]
Serbia 2018 53
Slovakia 2004 132
Slovenia 2007 63 [37]
Spain 1994 600 [38]
Sweden 2003 171 [39][40][41]
Switzerland 2009 144 [42]
United Kingdom 1994 762
United States 2017 165 [18]
Total 11,200

Former marketsEdit

Country Year opened Year closed Notes Ref.
Norway 2004 2008 Closed due to poor sales and political issues. [43]

Future marketsEdit

Country Opening year Notes Ref.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 2022 In construction, first stores planned to open by 2022. [44]
Estonia 2021 In construction, first stores planned to open by 2021. [45]
Ukraine TBD Plans of expansion to the Ukrainian market officially confirmed. [46]

Other servicesEdit

In October 2009, Lidl Movies was launched in the United Kingdom,[47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

As of May 2019, Lidl US has partnered with Boxed.com to test a home delivery service using the online retailer's technology. Lidl also partners with Target Corp. subsidiary Shipt for grocery home delivery.[50]

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 women and girls coupons to get free pads or tampons each month as an initiative against period poverty.[51]

ControversiesEdit

FoodEdit

  • In 2021, antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens such as MRSA were found in turkey products in Germany. 35 per cent of test sample products bought at Lidl had superbugs.[52][53]
  • In 2021, the police conducted a drug raid on a Lidl store in Rosenheim, Germany. Certain foodstuffs and drinks were seized because they contained cannabis, apparently excess quantities of tetrahydrocannabinol and small amounts of cannabidiol. Lidl then removed 21 different products, sold in 3 350 Lidl stores across Germany, from the product assortment. The public prosecutor's office in Heilbronn launched an investigation into possible violation of food law and narcotics law.[54][55]
  • In 2021, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) published newspaper advertisements highlighting Lidl's allegedly misleading milk branding. Subsequently, Lidl sued the IFA for defamation in the High Court of the Republic of Ireland. The company sought an injunction in an attempt to stop further publication of the announcements. The suit was rejected, because the threshold for defamation was not met.[56]
  • In 2021, Lidl was sued in the UK for allegedly infringing a trade mark. Lidl was using the brand name "Warren & Sons" on some of its meat products. The plaintiff, a traditional butcher's named Philip Warren & Son, was receiving quality complaints about products that it had neither produced nor marketed.[57] However, the claim was dismissed.[58]
  • In 2020, Valencian agricultural organizations requested the Ministry of Agriculture to examine irregularities regarding the origin, quality and price of Lidl's "Valencian rice".[59]
  • In 2020, Lidl was fined one million euros by the Italian Competition Authority because Lidl had been misleading consumers about the origin of the raw material of Italiamo and Combino pasta.[60]
  • In 2018, it was reported that Lidl was importing raw sausage from Poland into Germany. Pig farmers in Germany were worried that African swine fever would spread to Germany.[61]
  • In 2017, Lidl was involved in controversy over eggs contaminated with insecticide fipronil.[62]
  • In 2016, poisonous xylene was discovered in a gravy sold by Lidl GB.[63] After being notified of the product error, Lidl waited for more than two weeks before recalling the toxic product.[64]
  • In 2014, a former Lidl GB worker won a case against Lidl after reporting a food safety violation and being bullied from his job.[65]
  • In 2013, Lidl was named as one of the supermarket chains selling products involved in the horse meat scandal.[66]
  • In 2011, minced meat steaks sold under Lidl's private label Steak Country contained E. coli bacteria.[67] 18 people in France, predominantly children, fell seriously ill from the steaks. Many of the children require lifetime treatment.[68] One child was left profoundly and permanently disabled,[69] and he died eight years later.[70]
  • In 2010, cheese sold under Lidl's private label Reinhardshof contained listeria. The company failed to prompt a suspension of deliveries in time. One person in Germany died of food poisoning after eating the cheese. Lidl was fined €1.5 million for violating food law.[71][72]
  • In 2008, Lidl was forced to issue an official apology because staff at a Lidl store in Sweden deliberately poisoned homeless people by poisoning food in trash containers.[73]
  • In 2005, Lidl was caught putting additives in meat, which means they are classified as "meat preparations" and allows avoiding salmonella testing and origin labeling, yet marketed the products as "meat", according to the National Food Agency in Sweden.[74]

Working conditions and labour rightsEdit

Stores and warehousesEdit

 
A Lidl store in Katowice, Poland
  • In 2021, about 15 employees accused Lidl's regional management of deplorable working conditions, unjustifiable dismissals and multiyear harassment in Béziers, France. Staff members are even encouraged suicide, the whistleblowers said.[75]
  • In 2021, a long-time employee took her own life after complaining about bad working conditions at the Lamballe branch in France.[76][77]
  • In 2021, a lorry forced a picket line and killed a labour union leader outside Lidl's warehouse in Biandrate, Italy.[78]
  • In 2021, the Gendarmerie raided Lidl's logistics center in Ploumagoar, France. The management team was taken into police custody as part of an investigation into harassment and anti-union discrimination.[79]
  • In 2020, Lidl US was accused of neglecting coronavirus procedures as many workers died of the disease.[80][81]
  • In 2018, shopworkers' union Usdaw said there was a "climate of fear" in the Scottish distribution depot in Livingston. Workers were timed, pressuring them to work at excessive speed, which caused injuries. Workers' personal belongings were randomly searched through. Union representatives were barred from the premises.[82]
  • In 2017, a scandal over the heavy workload and intimidation of workers at Lidl broke in France.[83]
  • In 2017, a court ruled against Lidl GB's attempts to suppress trade union representation for its warehouse workers in Bridgend, Wales.[84][85]
  • In 2015, a Lidl warehouse worker committed suicide by hanging himself at his workplace in Rousset, France. According to a labour inspection survey, Lidl had repeatedly harassed the worker with demeaning comments and unreachable orders. The worker had told a relative that he had been doing the work of five employees.[86] An appellate court found that there had been gross negligence on the part of the company.[87] Lidl was later indicted for manslaughter.[88]
  • In 2015, it was reported that Lidl had violated labour legislation in Poland such as forcing employees to work for over 13 hours a day, according to reports from the state labour inspectorate. A chairman in the Solidarity trade union in Poland said that Lidl managers harass and intimidate employees who want to organize.[89]
  • In 2014, Lidl GB staff were instructed not to speak any language other than English, not even Welsh (an official language of the United Kingdom, used in Wales), with Lidl's customers. The Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith) said the policy was "appalling". Cymdeithas yr Iaith's chairman, Jamie Bevan, said that "since the Welsh language bill was passed four years ago, it is illegal to stop staff from speaking to customers in Welsh".[90]
  • In 2009, it was reported that approximately 300 sheets of paper containing Lidl employees' personal information had been found in the trash bin of a car wash in Bochum, Germany. Among the sheets were forms filled with details of the employees' sick days and illnesses. This included reproductive health; for example, a female employee had the annotation: "Wishes to become pregnant, fertilisation has been unsuccessful".[91]
  • In 2008, The Times[92] noted that Lidl managers worked overtime hours and were directed to sign out of the Working Time Directive when starting with the company.
  • In 2008, German newspaper Stern uncovered Lidl spying on its staff, including registration of employees' toilet visits as well as personal details regarding employees' love lives, personal finances and menstrual cycles.[93] Lidl was fined €1.5 million for the unauthorised surveillance of its employees.[94]
  • In 2008, it was reported that Lidl's Czech branches had allowed female employees who were menstruating to use lavatories on condition that they wore conspicuous headbands during their periods.[95]
  • In 2006, the German United Services Trade Union published an updated edition of The Black Book on Lidl in Europe. The book is based on accounts from past and present employees. It contains many wide-ranging criticisms against the grocery chain. For instance, an anti-pregnancy policy in Portuguese branches is mentioned.[96]
  • In 2004, Lidl was awarded the Big Brother Award in Germany for acting almost like a slave master towards its employees.[97]
  • In 2003, a judge in Savona, Italy, sentenced Lidl for opposition to union policies, a crime in Italy.[98]

SuppliersEdit

  • In 2021, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a complaint with German prosecutors accusing Lidl from abetting and profiting from forced Uyghur labor in Xinjiang.[99]
  • In 2018, striking workers were assaulted and injured by a "mob of 'hired thugs'" at one of Lidl's suppliers, Fu Yuen Garment Co Ltd in Myanmar. 28 workers were wounded, six of them seriously. The workers had been picketing the factory because of poor conditions and mistreatment.[100]
  • In 2017, it was reported that some of Lidl's prominent vegetable suppliers in Germany had been paying workers significantly less than the minimum wage.[101]
  • In 2016, Oxfam in Germany revealed the following about the working conditions on certain fruit plantations that supply Lidl: Workers have to work there simultaneously when pesticides are dropped on the plantation. Workers have said that they suffer from frequent illnesses and miscarriages. Work contracts are oral and for three months only. Many workers do not want to form labour unions in fear of retaliation.[102]
  • In 2010, the Consumer Protection Agency in Hamburg, Germany, filed an unfair competition complaint against Lidl. The company had deceived customers by giving the false impression that the working conditions at Lidl suppliers were good. In reality, the conditions were reported "inhumane" and in breach of conventions and standards.[103]
  • In 2008, a company named Weinzheimer was exclusively baking all in-store bakery products being sold by Lidl in Europe. A Die Zeit journalist worked at the bakery and reported bad working conditions. Overwork and inadequate equipment had led to workers suffering concussions, wounds, and burns. "You [workers] are cheaper than new [baking] sheets", a manager told the undercover reporter.[104]

OtherEdit

 
A Lidl store in Santorini, Greece
  • In 2021, Lidl lost a lawsuit after infringing a patent. Lidl was ordered to compensate Vorwerk, patent holder of Thermomix.[105]
  • In 2020, the Court of Cassation convicted Lidl for breaking French competition law. Lidl had advertised it was the "best store chain" without sufficient evidence.[106]
  • In 2020, Lidl lost an intellectual property lawsuit. Lidl had copied a maker of plant milk without permission. The discount chain is required to indemnify Chufamix's Valencian inventor.[107]
  • In 2019, it was reported that Lidl's kitchen appliance Monsieur Cuisine Connect contained a concealed microphone that could be hacked.[108]
  • In 2017, Lidl was involved in controversy related to removing crosses on pictures of churches. Its branch in Camporosso, Italy, was using a picture of the church of Dolceacqua, Italy, for promotional purposes with the cross removed from the picture of the church.[109] Lidl had removed crosses from pictures of churches on the Greek island Santorini used on packaging for its Eridanous line of products. Lidl acknowledged it made a mistake and promised to deal with the issue.[110][111][112]
  • In 2017, all of Lithuania's major newspapers reported that Lidl Lithuania, compared to other Lidl markets, sets higher prices on identical products despite lower expenses including rent, salaries, etc.[113][114][115][116]
  • In 2017, Italian police arrested 15 people from four of Lidl's offices during investigation into ties with Laudani crime family.[117]
  • In 2014, Lidl supermarkets were exposed by the BBC for threatening staff with termination of employment for speaking Polish during work and at their tea breaks.[118]
  • In 2013, it was reported that in Germany Lidl had failed to notify health officials of numerous rat infestations. Instead, Lidl spread powdered rat poison on the product shelves, without informing customers of the rodenticide. One of Berlin's chief health inspectors warned that children who come in contact with rat poison may bleed to death.[119][120]
  • In 2007, Lidl was convicted of anti-competitive practices and trade mark violation after selling pirated shoes.[106]

Lidl PlusEdit

In August 2018, Lidl Digital International GmbH 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 digital versions of money off scratch cards and receipts. It also offers discounts on own brand products and discounts on partner offers.

The app launched in the UK with £5 off any purchases greater than £25 – excluding alcohol and baby formula.[121]

The app also has, in several countries, a bonus program with cashback. Planned release in Sweden is in May 2021, although many Lidl Plus countries already have it activated.

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External linksEdit