Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
Privately held company
Industry Retailing
Founded 1930 (1930)
Founder Dieter Schwarz
Headquarters Neckarsulm, Germany
Number of locations
Over 10,000 stores, in 28 countries in Europe
Area served
Most of Europe
Products Discount store, hypermarket/supercenter/superstore
Revenue Increase€ 63,35 billion euro (2013)
Owner Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
Number of employees
Parent Schwarz Gruppe
Divisions Lidl, Kaufland
A typical Lidl store. Products are stacked on removable pallets for easy re-stocking
European countries in which Lidl is active
A Lidl store in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom
A Lidl store in Lomma, Sweden
Lidl store in a former railway station in Newcastle, Northern Ireland

Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG (German pronunciation: [ˈliːdəl]; UK /ˈlɪdəl/ LID-əl), formerly Schwarz Unternehmens Treuhand KG, is a German global discount supermarket chain, based in Neckarsulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,[1] that operates over 10,000 stores across Europe. It belongs to the holding company Schwarz Gruppe, which also owns the store chains Handelshof and hypermarket Kaufland.

Lidl is the chief competitor of the similar German discount chain Aldi.


The company was founded in 1930 by a member of the Schwarz family, and was called Schwarz Lebensmittel-Sortimentsgroßhandlung (Schwarz Foods Assortment Wholesale). Lidl has since established itself in over 20 countries throughout Europe.

The name Lidl is the surname of a former business partner of Josef Schwarz's, Ludwig Lidl, a retired schoolteacher, and Josef's son Dieter Schwarz bought the rights to the name from him for 1,000 German marks, as he could not use the name Schwarz Markt; Schwarzmarkt means "black market". Lidl is part of the Schwarz Group, the fifth-largest retailer in the world with sales of $82.4 billion (2011).[2]

In 1930, Josef Schwarz became a partner in Südfrüchte Großhandel Lidl & Co., a fruit wholesaler, and he developed the company into a general food wholesaler. As a result of the war, the company was destroyed in 1944, and a ten year reconstruction period soon started. In 1977, under his son Dieter Schwarz, the Schwarz-Gruppe began to focus on discount markets, larger supermarkets, and cash and carry wholesale markets.

The first Lidl discount store was opened in 1973, copying the Aldi concept. Schwarz rigorously removed merchandise that did not sell from the shelves, and cut costs by keeping the size of the retail outlets as small as possible. By 1977, the Lidl chain comprised 33 discount stores.

Since launching in the United Kingdom in September 1994, Lidl has grown consistently, and today has over 590 stores. While it is still a small player in the United Kingdom, with a grocery market share of less than 5%, its importance, along with that of continental no frills competitor Aldi is growing, with half of shoppers in the United Kingdom visiting Aldi or Lidl over Christmas.[3]

In June 2015, the company announced it would be establishing a United States headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.[4] United States stores are expected to open in 2018.[5]

Other services

In October 2009, Lidl Movies was launched in the United Kingdom,[6] undercutting Tesco DVD Rental, which had previously been the United Kingdom's cheapest online rental service for DVDs. The service was powered by OutNow DVD Rental. OutNow went into liquidation in October 2011, taking Lidl Movies with it.[7]

In January 2012, Lidl launched bakeries in their stores across Europe. They consist of a small baking area with a number of ovens, together with an area where bread and pastries, such as croissants, are displayed for sale.

In August 2013, Lidl UK also launched an online photo service, which prints photos and photo gifts at discounted prices.[8]

Approach to retailing

Like fellow German supermarket Aldi, Lidl has a no-frills approach of displaying most of its products in their original delivery cartons, allowing the customers to take the product directly from the carton. When the carton is empty, it is simply replaced with a full one. Staffing is minimal, so that a profit can still be made even though the prices are low.

Lidl grocery store in Angers, France in 2013

Together with Aldi, Lidl has carved out its own niche with this approach. In contrast to Aldi, there are generally more branded products on offer and while Lidl imports many low-priced gourmet foods from Europe, it also sources many local products from the country where the store is located. Like Aldi, Lidl has special weekly offers, and its stock of non-food items often changes with time. In contrast to Aldi, Lidl advertises extensively in its homeland of Germany.

The Lidl operation in the United Kingdom took a different approach than the head office, with focus on marketing and public relations, and providing employee benefits not required by law including paying the independently verified living wage and offering a staff discount. Upmarket products were introduced, especially in the lead up to Christmas. This required significant investment in marketing to produce dramatic sales growth, but had an effect on Lidl’s logistical operation and pressure on profits. Ronny Gottschlich, who ran the store chain in the United Kingdom for the six years to 2016, was responsible for this approach.

It led to friction with head office, due to the cost involved, and in September 2016, Gottschlich unexpectedly left, and was replaced by the Austrian sales and operations director, German national Christian Härtnagel.[9] Lidl continued to have ambitious investment plans in the United Kingdom, potentially ultimately doubling the number of stores to 1,500. In the financial year of 2015, Lidl Great Britain's revenue from its stores over 630 throughout Britain was £4.7 billion.


Trade unions in Germany and other countries have repeatedly criticised Lidl for mistreatment of workers, breach of European directives on working time and other abuses. These have been published in the Black Book on the Schwarz Retail Company published in Germany and are now also available in English.[10]

The Times[11] notes that Lidl managers work excessive hours and are obliged to sign out of the Working Time Directive when starting with the company, while The Guardian reported other allegations in the United Kingdom and abroad. Hidden cameras were said to have been found in one store in Wasbek, north Germany, to monitor on its workforce and making notes on employee behaviour, focusing on attempting to sack female workers who might become pregnant or to force staff at warehouses to do "piece-rate" work.[12]

In July 2003, a judge in Savona, Italy, sentenced Lidl for anti-union policies, a crime in Italy.[13] Lidl has been criticised in both the United Kingdom and Ireland for not allowing workers to join unions.

In November 2014, Lidl UK staff were forbidden to speak any language other than English, not even Welsh (a language used in Wales). The Welsh Language Society (Cymdeithas yr Iaith) said the policy was "appalling". Cymdeithas yr Iaith's chairman, Jamie Bevan, said that "since the Welsh language bill was passed four years ago, it is illegal to stop staff from speaking to customers in Welsh".[14]

The 'English only' rule provoked protests from the Polish community in Kirkcaldy. The incident was broadly commented on in the press[15][16][17][18][19] and the policy was ridiculed. Poles complained that they were discriminated against, as they could no longer be served in their native language. One of the Polish protesters, speaking with The Scotsman, said: "I cannot imagine an opposite situation, where a British worker is not allowed to speak to a British customer in the English language anywhere in Europe".[20] Eventually the policy was withdrawn.[21][22]


Opening weekend by Lidl in Vilnius, Lithuania

There are Lidl stores in each member state of the European Union excluding Latvia and Estonia, and also in Switzerland.


Country Number of stores
 Austria 198[23]
 Belgium 300
 Bulgaria 83[24]
 Croatia 86 [25]
 Czech Republic 220
 Cyprus 14
 Denmark 103
 Finland 152 [26]
 France 1500
 Germany 3000
 Greece 226
 Hungary 156
 Ireland 148[27]
 Italy 552 [28]
 Luxembourg 6
 Lithuania 20 (planned expansion to ≈80) [29][30]
 Malta 7
 Netherlands 400
 Poland 525 [31]
 Portugal 243
 Romania 200
 Slovakia 130
 Slovenia 46 [32]
 Spain 527 [33]
 Sweden 169 [34][35]
  Switzerland 100[36]
 United Kingdom 630


  1. "Impressum." Lidl. Retrieved 28 September 2012. "Adresse: Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG Stiftsbergstraße 1 74167 Neckarsulm "
  2. "User account | Supermarket News". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  3. "Half of UK shoppers visited Lidl, Aldi over Xmas - fastFT: Market-moving news and views, 24 hours a day". 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2015-03-30.
  4. Vozzella, Laura. "McAuliffe bags German grocer Lidl, bringing hundreds of jobs to Virginia". The Washington Post.
  5. "Lidl set to open first US stores no later than 2018". 2016-08-30. Retrieved 2016-09-21.
  6. "Latest News – Which? News". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  7. Kukiewicz, Julia (28 February 2013). "OutNow: A Look Back". Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  8. "Our Offers". Lidl Photos. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  9. Sarah Butler (10 September 2016). "Lidl UK boss unexpectedly leaves German supermarket". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  10. "Black Book on Lidl in English" (PDF).
  11. Boyes, R. (27 March 2008). "Lidl the Big Brother Supermarket Is Watching You". The Times.
  12. Pidd, Helen (14 March 2007). "Cheap But Not So Cheerful". The Guardian.
  13. "Il tribunale di Savona condanna Lidl Italia per comportamento antisindacale" (in Italian). Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Comercio Turismo e Servici (Italian Federation of Workers in Commerce, Tourism, and Services). 9 July 2003. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  14. "'English only' rule at Lidl shops sparks Welsh row". BBC News. 7 November 2014.
  15. "Lidl Polish workers banned from speaking own language". 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  16. "Polish workers at Lidl told to stop speaking their native language or they will be sacked". 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  17. "Speak English or face sack: Kirkcaldy store tells Polish staff to stop speaking their native language". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  19. "Polish Lidl employees banned from speaking Polish". 2014-11-07. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  20. "Lidl Polish workers banned from speaking own language". 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  21. "Lidl performs U-turn over Polish language ban". 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  22. "Lidl UK apologises over Polish language ban". 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  23. "Lidl Austria Company Profile". Retrieved 27 October 2009.
  24. "LIDL Заслужава си! Нашите магазини". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  25. "Lidl želi preteći Plodine i imati čak 120 trgovina u Hrvatskoj". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). 14 January 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  26. "Lidl Corporate Info" (in Finnish). Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  27. "Anglo Celt - 19 new jobs created and new Virginia Lidl store". Anglo Celt. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  28. "Volantini Lidl". CentroVolantini. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  30. "Atidarytas "Lidl" logistikos centras Kauno rajone" (in Lithuanian). Verslo žinios. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  31. "LIDL sklepy spożywcze – gazetka, promocje, przepisy, praca". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  32. "Lidlove ljubljanske trgovine del UNICEF-ove mreže Varnih točk". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  33. Lebensmittelzeitung, Lebensmittelhandel Spanien 2014
  34. "Medarbetare - Lidl Sverige" (in Swedish). Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  35. "Pressmeddelande - Lidl Sverige tecknar fastighetsskötselavtal" (in Swedish). Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  36. "A propos de Lidl Suisse".

External links

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