|Schwarz Unternehmens Treuhand KG|
Company founded 1930
First discount store opened
Number of locations
|10,000+ in 28 European countries and the United States|
|Jesper Højer (CEO)|
|Owner||Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG|
Number of employees
Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG (German pronunciation: [ˈliːdl̩]; UK: // LID-əl), formerly Schwarz Unternehmenstreuhand KG, is a German global discount supermarket chain, based in Neckarsulm, Germany, that operates over 10,000 stores across Europe and the United States. It belongs to Dieter Schwarz, who also owns the store chains Handelshof and hypermarket Kaufland.
Lidl is the chief competitor of the similar German discount chain Aldi in several markets, including the United States. 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.
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.
Lidl is part of the Schwarz Group, the fifth-largest retailer in the world with sales of $82.4 billion (2011).
The first Lidl discount store was opened in 1973, copying the Aldi concept. 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 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.
Sven Seidel was appointed CEO of the company in March 2014, after the previous CEO Karl-Heinz Holland stepped down. 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.
In June 2015, the company announced it would establish a United States headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. 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. Lidl is focusing on locations in East Coast states, between Pennsylvania and Georgia, and as far west as Ohio.
- 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.
- 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.
- In 2016, Lidl police headquarters case – an alleged covert attempt to extort bribes from Lidl, became a massive scandal in Lithuania.
- In 2016, poisonous xylene was discovered in a gravy sold by Lidl UK.
- 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.
- In 2017, Italian police arrested 15 people from 4 of Lidl's offices during investigation into ties with Laudani crime family.
- 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.
- 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.
In October 2009, Lidl Movies was launched in the United Kingdom, 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.
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.
In August 2013, Lidl UK also launched an online photo service, which prints photos and photo gifts at discounted prices.
Approach to retailing
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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.
In contrast to Aldi, there are generally more branded products on offer, and while Lidl imports many low-priced gourmet foods from Europe, 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.
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. 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.
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.
The Times 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.
In July 2003, a judge in Savona, Italy, sentenced Lidl for opposition to union policies, a crime in Italy. 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".
Number of stores
|Country||Number of stores|
|Finland||173 + 4 outlet stores|
|combined total of LIDL stores||10,496|
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