On the growth of Lidl’s 600 current stores Ronny Gottschlich said “If I could have the 1,200 in the next three years, then I would have it in the next three years. But it is clear that the quality of the sites must not be lost. There are no restrictions to the openings we can do in a year. The funding is there.”
Lidl announced plans to increase its investment in its estate to £220m next year and £300m in 2015 to dramatically boost store openings from 20 new stores a year to at least 30 to 40 new stores.
“We really see ourselves these days more of a supermarket than the hard discounter of the past,” said Gottschlich in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph.
“Those times are over. We are now a supermarket. We offer the best quality for the least.”
Last month Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all lost market share for the first time on record, according to industry data from Kantar Worldpanel.
During the 12 weeks to 10 November, Britain’s largest grocer Tesco saw its market share shrink from 30.5 per cent to 29.8 per cent. Lidl’s market share in comparison rose 0.3 percentage points to three per cent, while fellow budget grocer Aldi rose to 3.9 per cent.
“Almost a third of British households have shopped in Aldi in the past 12 weeks,” Kantar director Edward Garner said.
On recent strong growth numbers Gottschlich believes that the figures could continue to outstrip expectations.
“I believe it [our growth] may even get stronger, because those customers who are already with us will share with their friends and family,” he said.
Gottschlich attributes Lidl’s success to its strong European footprint –the chain has 10,000 stores across Europe where it buys in bulk from local suppliers – and the grocer’s small number of product lines offered online. It has 1,600 product lines compared to Tesco’s 15,000.
“If you go to another retailer that has got 20 different types of water, someone has got to pay for that space, someone has got to pay for that rent,” said Gottschlich.
Lidl’s like-for-likes sales are currently growing by 18 per cent annually, outstripping the growth of larger chain Tesco.
The company declined to offer a specific timeframe on Gottschlich’s comments or the opening of new stores.