The Big Four supermarkets are facing increasing levels of competition, with brands from both the top and bottom end of the price range in the grocery market putting an extreme amount of pressure on the “squeezed middle”. And, it seems that this trend is set to continue, with German import Lidl eyeing up expansion opportunities in the West Midlands.
Along with searching for properties in new locations, which forms a significant part of the budget supermarket’s strategy at present, Lidl has confirmed it will soon be revamping two of its most popular stores in the region.
Planning applications have been lodged with local authorities in both Birmingham and Sandwell which, if approved, will see both stores demolished and replaced with larger operations “more consistent with its preferred business model.”
One of the major changes will take place in West Bromwich, in which Lidl has enlisted the support of GVA to design a store ideally suited to the modern consumer. As well as almost doubling the floor space, GVA’s report indicates that the new store will offer a more flexible layout with wider aisles and more storage space for excess stock.
In addition, Lidl appears to be attempting to take on supermarkets such as Morrisons which pride themselves upon delivering the freshest food possible to customers. The renovated West Bromwich store will incorporate a “backnische” of the kind seen in its stores on the continent, with a preparation table, oven and freezer to allow for the on-site preparation of fresh baked goods.
Yet it is not only in the West Midlands that Lidl is seeking increased expansion opportunities, as the German grocer has recently announced its intention to open between 20 and 40 new stores per year in the UK. In fact, managing director Ronny Gottschlich reveals that Lidl has even bigger ambitions.
He says; “We are investing £220 million this year in stores and warehouses.
“We are seeking to do extensions wherever possible.
“If we can find more sites we will open more stores – there is certainly scope for between 1,200 and 1,500 stores but I am not going to put a time limit on that.”
As the privately owned firm currently has 608 UK stores, these long term targets would see Lidl at least double its store portfolio. And Lidl has a significant income at present which would allow for rapid property investment – during the 2013 financial year total sales reached £3.3 billion and are expected to top £4 billion by the end of the current annual period.
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