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Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG (German pronunciation: [ˈliːdl̩]; UK: /ˈlɪdəl/ LID-əl), formerly Schwarz Unternehmenstreuhand KG, is a German global discount supermarket chain, based in Neckarsulm, Germany,[1] that operates over 10,000 stores across Europe and the United States.[2] It belongs to Dieter Schwarz, who also owns the store chains Handelshof and hypermarket Kaufland.

Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
Schwarz Unternehmens Treuhand KG
Company founded 1930; 88 years ago (1930)

First discount store opened
1973; 45 years ago (1973)

FounderDieter Schwarz
HeadquartersNeckarsulm, Germany
Number of locations
10,000+ in 28 European countries and the United States
Area served
United States
Key people
Jesper Højer (CEO)
ProductsDiscount store
OwnerLidl Stiftung & Co. KG
Number of employees
ParentSchwarz Gruppe
DivisionsLidl, Kaufland
European countries in which Lidl is active

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



In 1930, Josef Schwarz became a partner in Südfrüchte Großhandel Lidl & Co., a fruit wholesaler, and he developed the company into a general food wholesaler. As a result of the war, the company was destroyed in 1944, and a 10-year reconstruction period soon started.[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 $82.4 billion (2011).[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.

A Lidl store in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

Lidl opened its first UK store in 1994 and grew rapidly during the first decade of the 21st century. Since then, Lidl has grown consistently, and today has over 650 stores. While it is still a small player in the United Kingdom, with a grocery market share of less than 5%, its importance, along with that of continental, no frills competitor Aldi is growing, with half of shoppers in the United Kingdom visiting Aldi or Lidl over Christmas 2014.[8]

Sven Seidel was appointed CEO of the company in March 2014, after the previous CEO Karl-Heinz Holland stepped down.[9] 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.[10]

A Lidl store in Greenville, South Carolina, USA

In June 2015, the company announced it would establish a United States headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.[11] Lidl has major distribution centers in Mebane, North Carolina, and Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The first twenty stores in the United States were opened in the summer of 2017, throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with a predicted total of one hundred stores by the end of 2017.[12][3] Lidl is focusing on locations in East Coast states, between Pennsylvania and Georgia,[13] and as far west as Ohio.[14][15]


Lidl in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, in central Poland
  • In 2004, Lidl was awarded the Big Brother Award in Germany for acting like a slave master. For example, Lidl had made its workers do many unpaid hours. Lidl had secretly monitored and routinely inspected the workers’ pockets and cars. Moreover, Lidl had prohibited lavatory visits by its employees. The company had allowed female employees who were menstruating to use lavatories under the condition that they wore headbands during their periods.[16]
  • In 2005, Lidl was caught putting additives in meat which allowed them to avoid salmonella testing and origin labeling, according to the National Food Agency in Sweden.[17]
  • 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, menstrual cycles and so on.[18]
  • In 2008, Lidl was fined €1.5 million for the unauthorised surveillance of its employees in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.[19]
  • In 2008, Lidl was forced to issue an official apology because a Lidl store in Sweden deliberately poisoned homeless people by poisoning food in trash containers.[20]
  • In 2009, it was reported that appr. 300 sheets of paper containing Lidl employees’ personal information had been found in the trash bin of a car wash in Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia, 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”.[21]
  • In 2010, the Hamburg Consumer Protection Agency 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.[22]
  • In 2011, minced meat steaks sold under Lidl’s private label Steak Country contained E. coli bacteria.[23] 18 persons in France, predominantly children, fell seriously ill from the steaks. Many of the children require lifetime treatment.[24] One child was left profoundly and permanently disabled.[25]
  • In 2013, Lidl sold gold coins in Germany. Their gold value turned out to be significantly lower than the price that Lidl sold them for. A bank would only pay one fifth of the price.[26]
Opening weekend at Lidl in Vilnius, Lithuania
  • In 2014, a former Lidl UK worker won a case against Lidl after reporting a food safety violation and being bullied from his job.[27]
  • 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.[28]
  • In 2015, a Lidl warehouse worker committed suicide by hanging himself at his workplace in Rousset, Bouches-du-Rhône, 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.[29]
  • 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.[30]
  • In 2016, poisonous xylene was discovered in a gravy sold by Lidl UK.[31]
  • 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.[32][33][34][35]
  • In 2017, Italian police arrested 15 people from 4 of Lidl's offices during investigation into ties with Laudani crime family.[36]
A Lidl store in Santorini, Greece
  • In 2017, Lidl was involved in controversy over eggs contaminated with insecticide fipronil.[37]
  • In 2017, a scandal over the heavy work load and intimidation of workers at Lidl broke in France.[38]
  • In 2017, it was discovered that Lidl 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.[39][40][40][41]
  • In 2017, Lidl was involved in another controversy related to crosses on churches. Its branch in Camporosso, Italy, was using a picture of the church of Dolceacqua, Italy, for promotional purposes. The cross was removed from the picture of the church.[42]
  • In 2018, it was reported that Lidl imports raw sausage from Poland into Germany. Pig farmers in Germany have been worried that African swine fever, already present in Poland, will spread to Germany.[43]
  • In 2018, Lidl Tallaght in Ireland was destroyed by looters armed with a JCB during snow storm "Emma". Lidl’s new Tallaght store and pub is scheduled for completion in 2019.[44][45]
  • In 2018, striking workers were assaulted and injured 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.[46]

Other servicesEdit

A fake Lidl store in Hurghada, Egypt

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.[49] 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.

In August 2013, Lidl UK also launched an online photo service, which prints photos and photo gifts at discounted prices.[50]

Approach to retailingEdit

A Lidl store in Angers, France

Like fellow German supermarket Aldi, Lidl has a zero waste, 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.[51]

In contrast to Aldi, there are generally more branded products on offer. 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.

The Lidl operation in the United Kingdom took a different approach than the head office, with 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.[citation needed]

Upmarket products were introduced, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. This required significant investment in marketing to produce dramatic sales growth but had an effect on Lidl’s logistical operation and pressure on profits. Ronny Gottschlich, who ran the store chain in the United Kingdom for the six years to 2016, was responsible for this approach. This led to friction with head office, due to the cost involved, and in September 2016, Gottschlich unexpectedly left and was replaced by the Austrian sales and operations director, German-national Christian Härtnagel.[52] Lidl continued to have ambitious investment plans in the United Kingdom, potentially 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.

Reflective inquiryEdit

A Lidl store in a former railway station. Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Trade unions in Germany and other countries have maintained their position over time on Lidl handling workers and Lidl's stance away from European directives on working time, and other criticisms. These viewpoints have been published in the Black Book on the Schwarz Retail Company published in Germany and now also available in English.[53]

The Times[54] notes that Lidl managers work overtime hours and are directed to sign out of the Working Time Directive when starting with the company, while The Guardian reported other allegations in the United Kingdom and abroad. Similar to quality control cameras in many US grocery markets, hidden cameras have been found in one store in Wasbek, north Germany, to monitor its workforce and make notes on employee behaviour, focusing on attempting to sack female workers who might become pregnant or to force staff at warehouses to do "piece-rate" work.[55]

In July 2003, a judge in Savona, Italy, sentenced Lidl for opposition to union policies, a crime in Italy.[56] Lidl has been criticised in both the United Kingdom and Ireland for not allowing workers to join unions. This prompted a campaign by Labour Youth which ultimately led to former National Recruitment Officer and Acting Chairperson of the organisation, Darren Bates, resigning due to a lack of support for businesses which create jobs.

In November 2014, Lidl UK staff were instructed not to speak any language other than English, not even Welsh (a language 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".[57]

Number of storesEdit

A Lidl store in Zaprešić, Croatia
The northernmost Lidl store in the world, located in Sodankylä, Finland
A Lidl store in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland
A Lidl store in Karlstad, Sweden
Country Number of stores
  Austria 230[58]
  Belgium 300
  Bulgaria 90[59]
  Croatia 93[60]
  Cyprus 17
  Czech Republic 220
  Denmark 110
  Finland 173 + 4 outlet stores[61]
  France 1,500
  Germany 3,301
  Greece 232
  Hungary 172
  Ireland 156[62]
  Italy 600[63]
  Latvia In construction[64]
  Lithuania 41[65]
  Luxembourg 10
  Malta 8
  Netherlands 400
  Poland 620[66]
  Portugal 247
  Romania 228[67]
  Serbia 19
  Slovakia 132
  Slovenia 51[68]
  Spain 550[69]
  Sweden 171[70][71][72]
   Switzerland 100[73]
  United Kingdom 710[74][75]
  United States 57[76]
Total LIDL stores 10,500+


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External linksEdit