- Lidl US hired former Walmart executive Kevin Sweet as its new senior director of real estate, according to Supermarket News.
- Sweet was Walmart's senior director of real estate from 2010 to 2016, and was most recently the mega-retailer's director of project design and management.
- Sweet, who according to LinkedIn delivered 153 new Walmart stores in 13 states, has a track record of finding good store locations. Jose Tamez of executive search firm Austin-Michael told Supermarket News that Sweet “could end up being the best hire, short of the new CEO, that they have made to date.”
Since Lidl has its eyes on opening 100 locations along the East Coast by the end of next year, a real estate pro is a valuable hire for the company. Lidl US execs told members of the media that they aren't taking over former retail sites, and are only developing new stores built from the ground up. This philosophy lets Lidl build the exact sort of grocery it wants in the exact sort of location it wants, though some of these desired spots might be difficult to find.
Before Lidl opened in the U.S., a page on its company website gave details about what the retailer was looking for in site locations. The page, which has since been taken down, asked people for suggestions for sites that would work well for stores. The retailers had been looking for at least 3.5 acres to accommodate a 36,000 square-foot store with at least 150 to 180 dedicated parking spaces.
Lidl obviously found some of the kind of sites it wanted, since it's opening several locations this summer and others are purchased and in stages of construction. However, before Lidl started operating a single U.S. store, grocery location experts from MTN Retail Advisors found many of the sites to be "real estate challenged" and "B and C class." Many of the sites are mid-block, and 70% of them were deemed not so easy for shoppers to enter and exit. The experts also found that it would be difficult in those locations for Lidl to attract and retain the customers it needs to stay profitable.
While Lidl's success with its existing locations is yet to be seen, it doesn't hurt to bring in experts to advise its continued expansion. Walmart is known for its extensive site location research, offering people an interactive guide to data on items like its locations, hourly wages for workers and distribution centers serving states and countries.
Sweet brings more than a decade of experience working with the mega-retailer — as well as voluminous knowledge of the United States retail real estate market — to the German discounter. His knowledge in determining the best sites for new Lidl stores just may hold the keys to Lidl's success as it continues its U.S. invasion in the coming years.