- Lidl began offering online grocery shopping through Shipt in Greenville, South Carolina last week, according to Upstate Business Journal.
- Lidl’s two stores in the city cover 123,000 consumers, according to the report.
- Shipt is offering discounted annual memberships to Lidl customers. The memberships, which guarantee free delivery and normally costs $99, will be available for $49.
Before Lidl opened its first U.S. stores back in June, executives said that online shopping wasn’t in the company’s plan. According to CEO Brendan Proctor, most shoppers prefer to buy groceries in stores, and the discounter wanted to focus on honing that in-store experience first.
Four months later, there are signs that Lidl is struggling to gain traction against competitors like Wal-Mart, Aldi and Kroger. InMarket data shows the retailer lost shopper traffic in July and August after a fairly strong start, while analysts have noted nearly empty stores and less-than-glowing reviews from consumers. The replacement of its head of U.S. operations last month seemed to confirm the company wasn’t making the splash it hoped it would.
There are numerous suggestions floating around as to how Lidl could improve its business. Some say it needs to lighten up on its nonfoods selection, while others point out it's focusing too much on pantry items where it isn’t price competitive. But there’s definitely a consensus that the company needs to change things up.
Testing online grocery seems to be one way Lidl is doing just that. Yes, consumers are doing most of their grocery shopping in stores, but online sales are growing at a rapid clip. Across the industry, retailers are jumping on board. Although large retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger and Amazon stand to profit most from grocery e-commerce down the road, retailers realize they need an online option to retain customers.
Lidl has also seen fellow discounter Aldi begin dabbling in e-commerce this summer with Instacart. The fast-growing grocer also understands that most of its sales will come from stores, but wants to make sure it doesn’t lose shoppers to competitors that offer home delivery.
While Lidl doesn’t seem to have planned to offer online shopping so early, its decision to do so highlights its ability to change course quickly, and not to hold anything too sacred. The discounter may be struggling, but it’s way too early to count it out.