- Since Lidl entered the U.S. market in June, customers have had a chance to visit the stores. Retail consulting firm Brick Meets Click took a look at what shoppers are saying about Lidl on Facebook, Yelp and Google. It also made a couple of its own in-person visits.
- The majority of Lidl stores average a 4+ star rating, according to the firm's analysis, but the comments reveal shoppers are weighing the pros and cons to determine repeat trips, what they’ll buy there and whether they’ll recommend it to others. Some shoppers were impressed with the retailer's bakery selection while others were disappointed that it didn't have more traditional German fare.
- Many shoppers compared Lidl to Aldi and Walmart, which likely reflects which retailers are being impacted by Lidl the most. The German grocer now has 37 stores in five states and plans to establish up to 100 from New Jersey to Georgia by next summer.
It’s not uncommon for a retailer to generate lots of excitement around its opening only to see the allure dissipate within a few months — shoppers want to know if the buzz is justified and whether they should come back again. The same thing happened after Amazon closed on its purchase of Whole Foods — traffic initially rose before enthusiasm wore off. Still, data from inMarket shows a slight gain in Lidl’s traffic from August to September, indicating that Lidl’s declines could be “plateauing.”
After opening its first stores in mid-June, Lidl saw its 2.6% share of shopper traffic in nine markets across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia drop in July (2.3%) and August (1.7%), according to inMarket location data cited by The Wall Street Journal. In September, traffic leveled off to 1.9% of shopper visits. Against traditional grocers such as Bi-Lo and Kroger, Lidl's 11% share of shopper visits in June dropped to 8% by August.
It's too early to predict the future of the company's presence in the U.S. based on just four months of operation. Comments on social media sites indicate people are still checking Lidl out and reserving judgment until the shakeout period is over.
A number of positive comments were posted about Lidl's relatively low prices and in-store bakeries. Shoppers also said they appreciated the organic fruit, fresh produce and the wine selection.
On the negative side, Lidl's management might consider not charging customers for bags, since shoppers dislike the practice and some would bring their own if they were aware of the policy in advance. Some customers also thought there should be a wider assortment of brands. Others had a few complaints about inconsistent service and items being out of stock.
The common thread among some of the criticism seems to be that Lidl’s merchandising mix is off. There also seems to be agreement that Lidl has faced stiffer competition than perhaps it expected, with competing retailers such as Walmart dropping prices and upping their promos in the lead-up to its opening.
No retailer wants to see initial traffic slow, but Lidl CEO Brendan Proctor believes the company can adapt to U.S. expectations.
“We’re agile as a retailer,” he said in May. “We’re able to adapt and learn from the markets we’ve gone into. … Personally, I believe one of our strengths is adapting to the customer’s needs and what the customer wants, and greatly curating the range around that.”
It's still early for Lidl in the U.S. While the chain has time to make improvements, its competitors are closely watching and are not going to relent on pressuring the new arrival anytime soon.