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    1st U.S. Lidl Stores to Debut June 15

    PG gets sneak peek at hard-discounter's wares during press event

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ
    Lidl US CEO Brendan Proctor speaks at a May 16 Lidl press event displaying some of the company's private label products

    At a May 16 event in New York introducing the array of private label products it will offer at its American stores, Lidl revealed that its first locations in the country – the German discount retailer's 28th – would make their debut on June 15. Lidl US CEO Brendan Proctor attributed the earlier opening date – moved up from 2018 – to the U.S. team’s “hard work,” and promised customers a “retooled, refreshed and rethought” grocery experience.

    According to press materials provided by Lidl, the company’s first 20 stores to open in the United States will be in Kinston, Greenville, Wilson, Sanford, Rocky Mount, Winston-Salem, Havelock, Rockingham and Wake Forest, N.C; Spartanburg and Greenville, S.C.; and Virginia Beach, Hampton, Culpeper, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Newport News, Richmond (two locations) and North Chesterfield, Va.

    The grocer, which established its U.S. headquarters in Arlington County, Va., in 2015, and has three southeastern distribution centers, said it would issue in the coming weeks a full list of stores opening next month. Lidl has already revealed plans to roll out as many as 100 stores by the end of this year along the populous East Coast, stretching from New Jersey to Atlanta and creating 5,000 jobs. Recent news reports have indicated that the company is already preparing for future expansion into Ohio and Texas.

    According to Proctor, the store design will adhere to a basic model with the same footprint. Press materials explained that all would “be newly constructed facilities, featuring a manageable, easy-to-shop layout of 20,000 square feet with only six aisles.” Proctor observed the the company depended on focus groups in creating the store layout, adopting such recommendations as making sure the locations include lots of natural light. Stores will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Monday.

    In response to a query by Progressive Grocer about advertising in the markets where the first 20 stores would be opening, Proctor replied that the company’s social media platforms had just gone live and would play a role in publicizing store openings, but said it was still too early to discuss TV, radio or other promotional campaign components.

    As for its store offering, the company unveiled a range of products representative of its focus on exclusive private label lines, including items sold under the premium Preferred Selection brand. This “tightly edited assortment,” in the words of Lidl spokesman Will Harwood, will include fresh and frozen seafood that is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (wild-caught product), Best Aquaculture Practices or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (both for farm-raised product); fresh-cut flowers starting at $3.99; sliced meats cured in the European style, although mostly sourced in the United States; award-winning cheeses; fresh breads and baked goods that will be made daily in-store; decadent imported chocolates, many of them made with Fair Trade cocoa; and a wine selection overseen by U.S. Director of Wine Adam Lapierre, one of just 353 Masters of Wine in the world, and the creator of Lidl's informational shelf tag system to help wine customers make more informed choices. Further, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Boudewijn Tiktak assured PG that the locations would carry “an extensive assortment of on-the-go foods” for busy customers, as well as case-ready muscle cuts of 100 percent Black Angus Choice beef. Besides confestions, shelf-stable private label products include pasta, olives, dried fruit, nuts, tea and honey.

    About 90 percent of Lidl’s products in its U.S. stores will be private label, with some as-yet-undisclosed national brands added to the mix.

     As well as samples of private label items in the above categories, the event offered specially created dishes whipped up by culinary celebrity Amanda Freitag, author of “The Chef Next Door,” from those products, including scallop ceviche and a salmon BLT featuring thick-cut bacon on a multiseed roll. Freitag lauded Lidl for providing people greater access to “high-quality products at decent prices,” a proposition that she believed could “change the face” of grocery.

    Proctor noted that the company’s practice was to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers and develop products according to exacting specifications, thereby achieving, as more than one Lidl executive put it, “the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price.”

    Additionally, the stores will carry limited-time nonfood products. The weekly selection will include fitness gear, small kitchen appliances, toys and outdoor furniture. Ahead of the store openings, the company explained in a YouTube video, embedded below, how its Fresh 5 and weekly themed specials will work.

    Despite all of the exclusive, upscale offerings on display at the event, Tiktak stressed the essentially democratic nature of what he called Lidl’s “incomparable concept," asserting, “We are a supermarket for everybody.”

    By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ
    • About Bridget Goldschmidt In addition to serving as Progressive Grocer’s Managing Editor, Bridget writes many print and digital features encompassing a range of grocery and fresh categories across the store. Bridget also enjoys on-site reporting assignments at such key industry events as the New York Fancy Food Show and the International Boston Seafood Show, in addition to visiting stores for PG’s prestigious Store of the Month feature. In her years with the magazine, she has developed into a knowledgeable voice on grocery industry trends, sought by such distinguished publications as The New York Times.

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