If you haven’t heard yet, another German supermarket operator is invading America, joining Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s (founded by brothers but split apart by the second generation over whether or not to sell cigarettes)
The new retailer is already a big player in Europe – the name is LIDL (pronounced lee-dle). They are coming after Aldi’s head on, with a few differences. To some degree, they might be more of a challenge to Walmart.
Compared to Aldi’s, the stores are bigger. More people work in the store. They do not do the “insert a quarter to get a cart” thing, which probably is covered by a patent. The aisles are very wide. They have a fresh bakery department.
We are lucky as this part of the country is where they are debuting the stores, which are being constructed in new custom-built buildings.
The Countess and I went over the South Carolina state line (risking a Mann Act issue) to an area known as Indian Land, South Carolina. A Lidl opened there two weekends ago. Eventually, there will be one in Charlotte at the former site of the radio city complex whose picture you see above in rotation. They have cleared the land there, but for now just an empty field.
So we arrived to give our inspection tour – there is a Chick-fil-A next door for lunch. We went inside and were greeted with country music blaring echoing off the cavernous ceiling. Both of us detest the noise pollution that retailers think their customers want (especially in restaurants).
We got a few items from the bakery and wandered around for a bit selecting a variety of things we might buy at Aldi’s. Like Aldi’s and Walmart, there is not a traditional meat department, just packages that arrive from some central supply chain and thrown in a refrigerated case.
The produce department seemed adequate. While Lidl follows the concept of being efficient by keeping the number of items down, the variety is bigger than Aldi’s. Their presentation of “organic” merchandise is almost as pervasive and obnoxious as at Whole Foods (Amazon).
This war has been in the works for a couple of years and may explain why Aldi’s stepped up their expansion and is remodeling existing stores and improving the quality of produce.
The employees seemed poorly trained (not a total surprise for a new store). A fair amount of restocking was going on during a busy Friday afternoon, blocking aisles. The shelves were well stocked, and the loss leader sale items were available in sufficient quantities. My impression was they were carrying a few more name brands than Aldi’s, but the emphasis is still on house brands with dubious origins.
We left the store thinking it was pretty unlikely we will return, at least until they build the store closer to us. Then a funny thing happened – we ate the pastries as part of our normal Friday night “beginning of the weekend” ritual, and they were good – really good. The blue cheese was really good according to the Countess (I have little experience with the foot smell cheese). We also tried some Belgium made chocolate thins in the shape of Pringle’s but made with rice flour – a kind of cross between the potato crisps and a Nestle’s Crunch bar – they were very good. In any case, the quality of their products may have overcome the other deficiencies of the shopping experience. Stay tuned…