Lidl is opening its first stores in June, ahead of the original 2018 schedule
German grocer Lidl said Wednesday that it’s going to open its first U.S. stores on June 15.
The company will open 20 stores this summer in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. By next summer, it plans to have up to 100 stores across the East Coast, and create a total of 5,000 jobs.
Stores will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
Last year, Lidl said it planned to open its stores in 2018.
Lidl already operates about 10,000 stores in 27 countries in Europe. The company opened its U.S. headquarters in Arlington County, VA in June 2015.
For now the company will be focused on bricks-and-mortar stores, according to Boudewijn Tiktak, Lidl’s chief commercial officer, who spoke at a Tuesday evening media event. The company is starting in these three states because of their proximity to Lidl’s U.S. headquarters and its facilities, the company said.
Lidl locations will be newly constructed and span six aisles over 20,000 square feet. About 90% of the goods sold will be Lidl private label, with far fewer items in each category available for sale, though the total number of stock keeping units (SKUs) is undisclosed.
“Do you need 50 labels of ketchup?,” asked Tiktak, at a media event Tuesday evening.
According to the company, its goods and groceries will be up to half the price of other U.S. supermarkets. Both fresh and frozen seafood in the core assortment will be certified sustainable or responsibly farmed. And there will be an assortment of organic and gluten-free merchandise in stock. All of the company’s private label goods will be free of certified synthetic colors, trans fats or added MSG, the company said.
“Curation” was a word that came up many times during the event, with various department representatives on hand to talk about the ways in which goods are selected.
Adam Lapierre, director of wine for Lidl U.S., said he tasted at least 10,000 wines to create Lidl’s assortment, which includes a rare Chilean Malbec and a rosé from Provence that he said shoppers won’t find elsewhere.
And Anna Sadovskaya, senior purchasing manager who works with items like chocolate and snacks, ate peanut butter for a week to select what goes on the shelf.
“You get to follow it through to the end and interact with items on a more intimate level,” she said.
These efforts to differentiate itself will be necessary in a crowded U.S. grocery market, where giants like Whole Foods Market Inc. WFM, -0.44% Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, +1.59% and Kroger Co. KR, +0.48% are vying for market share.
“They can be disruptive,” said Rupesh Parikh, senior food analyst for food, grocery and consumer products at Oppenheimer & Company, who points to Lidl’s success in the U.K. as evidence. But, he asks, “can they execute?”
Much about Lidl stores is still a mystery, such as the size of the produce department amid consumer demand for fresh food, how items will be presented, and what the overall experience will be like.
“Are they willing to make an investment and take losses because they see bigger opportunity down the road?” Parikh asked. Wal-Mart is watching competition like Aldi and Lidl closely, he said.
“If [Wal-Mart] reacts it can cause a chain reaction for others so they don’t lose share,” Parikh said. “If others have to follow, that can be an issue.”
But with consumers shopping in more places for groceries and willing to try new things, Lidl has a chance to make its mark.