What's In Store

Charlotte’s newest grocer may be slowing its expansion, report says

German grocer Lidl will open its latest Charlotte-area store Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. in Indian Trail.
German grocer Lidl will open its latest Charlotte-area store Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. in Indian Trail. Courtesy of Lidl

Last summer, Lidl opened its first U.S. stores, including several in the Charlotte area. The German grocery chain embarked on an ambitious expansion plan that seems to have slowed down since then.

In an interview last week with the German business publication Manager Magazin, Klaus Gehrig, CEO of the Schwarz Group, which owns Lidl, said the company’s U.S. stores are too large and expensive to run. Lidl, he said, will open 20 stores in 2018. Currently, the grocer has 48 stores across six states, a spokesman said.

This means that Lidl will fall short of its goal of opening 100 U.S. stores by summer 2018, an objective that the company said last May would create a total of 5,000 jobs across the East Coast.

“This was the ceiling we set, which was intended to correct some of the speculation that was commonplace that we would open 600 or a thousand or two thousand stores within a year,” Lidl spokesman Will Harwood said in an email to the Observer.

“Our goal is always long-term and sustainable growth, and we are making good progress.”

Throughout the Charlotte area, customers may have noticed that the discount grocer has halted construction at a few different sites.

Last fall, Lidl told the town of Mooresville that it “decided to (temporarily) suspend the construction progress” of a store on Williamson Road, which was rezoned for a 36,170-square foot grocery store in 2015.

In Charlotte’s South End, buildings were cleared last year from the property at 3229 South Blvd., but progress on the site slowed, and the property has become overgrown. Records show Lidl bought the land for $4.9 million in January 2016. Lidl won’t say what’s going on with the project.

In the interview with the German magazine, Gehrig noted that the company did a poor job selecting certain locations. “If you recognize a mistake, you have to correct it,” he said.

A recent UNC Chapel Hill study found that when Lidl enters a new market, other grocery stores respond by lowering prices an average of about 9 percent in an effort to stay competitive. The study, commissioned by Lidl, compared the grocer to Aldi, Food Lion, Walmart, Publix and Kroger, which owns Matthews-based Harris Teeter.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta