There’s been a lot of news lately about the success of Aldi and Lidl, the German so-called discount supermarkets, and how much more profitable they have become than the UK ‘big four’, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
Whatever the financial commentators make of it, we the customer have our own ideas about why this has been happening.
I have relatives who have worked in the food industry and told me horror stories about businesses being destroyed by gearing up to supply massive orders to a supermarket, only to lose the contract as soon as it comes up for renewal. Or a supermarket insisting they must be the only customer, putting suppliers in an impossibly vulnerable position.
The big four invest heavily in advertising that cosily suggests they are our friends, while apparently thinking they can rip off customers and we won’t notice. You feel you need to have your wits about you to work out whether the so-called special offers really save you any money.
Is that wine a good deal at ‘£3 off’ or is that the real price anyway? Our brains are apparently wired to expect a bargain when we see those red stickers and so ‘75p each, £1.50 for two’ or even ‘75p each, £2.50 for three’ doesn’t necessarily set off alarm bells when you’re in a rush.
We started shopping at Lidl when we moved to Frome and found there was a branch within easy walking distance. We couldn’t believe how low the bill was compared to other supermarkets and we’ve been regular customers ever since. We don’t do the whole shop there, but enough to make a significant difference to our food bills.
The products might have unfamiliar names or labels bearing an uncanny resemblance to a famous brand but the quality is excellent. I discovered very early on that the chocolate doesn’t disappoint, and the Christmas confectionery range (already starting to appear, sadly for my thighs) is delicious, especially the German iced gingerbreads.
The range of wine is small but beats the big four hands down on taste and price, particularly the Prosecco and Champagne.
And occasionally we pick up big name brands like Finish dishwasher tablets and Ariel washing powder at amazingly low prices. The best recycled loo paper I’ve ever found was a Lidl special offer, but seems never to have been repeated, although I looked out for it for a while.
There can be amazing flower and plant bargains if you’re quick. I missed out on some beautiful, big hydrangea plants in the summer by not snapping them up when they appeared. When I went back a few days later they’d gone, so this week I didn’t hesitate to grab this large hardy chrysanthemum for a fiver!
And this one for indoors at £2.99 will cheer up a dark corner for weeks.
We never queue for long in Lidl. As soon as there are more than a handful of people waiting, a cashier will ask the end of the queue to go to another till and get someone to open it up within a couple of minutes. No repeated tannoy calls for ‘colleagues to go to the tills please’, no winding lines of trolleys and impatient people.
After many instances of being overcharged in other supermarkets, especially when ‘special offers’ haven’t had prices marked down at the till, we always check the receipt, and I can’t remember a single time at Lidl when it’s been wrong. So annoying to buy something specifically because it’s labelled as a good deal, only to find you’ve paid full price.
In the new Lidl newspaper you can pick up from bins at the exit I read that they don’t stock more than 7 types of any product. Contrast that with a recent trip to Sainsburys where we counted 15 types of mayonnaise. I regard limited choice as a big plus – I don’t actually want to have to examine countless varieties of an everyday product before making a decision.
Similarly most Lidl stores seem to be a manageable size. I hate huge stores where I have to walk miles past clothes and computers just to pick up basic items, and make a point of not buying anything over and above what’s on the list!
I see that Lidl are making the most of their newfound popularity by using in their advertising the social media comments made by customers, whom they call Lidlers. A clever move since we’re all more likely to believe a fellow customer than a corporate message.
Do you shop at Lidl? Has the old prejudice against the discounters disappeared? We don’t have an Aldi locally and have no experience of it – how do you rate it?