A new grocery store has opened in Norfolk and Virginia Beach— and the world watches to see what happens.
Lidl, a German supermarket chain, made its first appearance on American soil last month, but you’d be forgiven for missing the significance. Even though a new grocery store may seem like a minor thing, it’s the first landing in what’s a whole new world for American business.
Lidl (name rhymes with “needle”) has been described as a cross between Aldi and Trader Joe’s, a discount grocery store with premium-label quality. That combination has already earned strong expansion over its forty years, and its 27,000 locations in Europe serve now as the launching point for American settlement.
And they’re not taking American customers for granted. Lidl tested its products with a “prototype store” in Spotsylvania, VA, and discovered that, among other things, Americans expect free samples from the bakery and chilled beer on hand. These are the kinds of discoveries they’ll need to win over the lower- and middle-income families Lidl seeks before they try to draw in “upmarket” consumers.
As for the Norfolk location, the grand opening showed that they’re invested in bringing in new customers. They had all the bells and whistles, even half an hour before closing time— free shopping totes, a bakery at the front, fresh produce and organic options, a back-to-school section with discounted prices, and even an app with special deals and recipes.
This relatively small store is worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see what it is that has chains like Wal-Mart and Kroger bracing for impact. There are only twenty Lidl stores in the U.S. now, but next summer they will have 100. Our community has the rare opportunity to see firsthand which way a major market bends, and to see if that bend will be a big one or a little one.