I'm back from my visit to the brand new LIDL in Virginia Beach. In case you're unfamiliar, LIDL is a huge grocery store chain in Europe, based in Germany. Their big competitor in Europe is ALDI although based on what I've seen they're fairly different. They've just opened their first stores on the east coast and they're going to be opening lots of them in coming years.
I'll start this post with a couple of pieces of advice: (1) if you're anywhere near one of the LIDLs that are open or opening soon, it is Road Trip Worthy. Pack your ice chests, grab the kids, go for a road trip. (2) if you're an investor in other grocery store chains, it's time to sell. LIDL will be dominant very soon. The prices and quality are such that I don't see that many other chains can compete.
OK, so how to describe the LIDL experience? How bout this? Imagine a well lit, bigger Trader Joe's at 1/3 off. Or imagine ALDI with a much more upscale selection, fresher produce, no quarter needed for the cart, cleaner and bigger.
Am I excited? You bet I am. If this isn't food shopper heaven, it's at least on the same block.
So, here is what you see when you go. The first thing you notice is how bright and airy it is. It looks to me like these stores were LEED designed, with lots of natural light. Lots of room to move around, although because of the grand opening, the store was packed with shoppers. Off to your left, they have a fresh bakery. They were dishing out samples and the quality was good. Croissants were on sale for $.33 each. Fresh pretzels were regular price and were $.59 ea. They're good. We also got a loaf of harvest bread, similar to those seeded, multigrain breads at costco. That was $3.49, regular price. We had it for dinner tonite and while good, i think costco's is better. Good attempt though.
From there, it gets better. The meat selection is good. I'm not much of a beef fan, but it was USDA choice, and the pricing was good. I did pick up boneless skinless chicken breasts. Family pack sized, on sale for $1.78 lb.
The produce is very fresh and we took advantage. Baby bella mushrooms were $1.49. Pineapples were on sale for $.89 each. The produce was arranged similarly to ALDI, but the produce section was about 2 X as large, and the quality was much better. I got some baby colored peppers and heirloom small tomatoes.
The prices on staples are very good. Flour was $1.25 for 5lbs. The store had generic eggs for $.55 doz. Butter was $2.69 lb, regular price. Good dairy selection. They had their house brand of greek yogurt. On sale at $.50 a cup.
Something to note. LIDL sells probably 75-80% of their stuff under their own brand. But the packaging is extremely similar to national brands. And they did something that I think is really cute. They would sell the national brand right next to their house brand so you couldn't help to notice the similarities and the significant price difference.
Another thing about LIDL is that much of their food is European. They have an extensive selection of Italian delights, many of which I hadn't seen since living abroad. I haven't seen smoked scamorza in years, they had it for $3.99.
The alcohol selection is good and we picked up a nice barolo for $14.99. Their beer selection was good, but I don't think quite as extensive as Trader Joe's. And again, they didn't hesitate to put name brands next to their house brand. They had "Blue Key" next to the "Blue Moon." But their brand "Blue Key" was five dollars and change for a six pack.
The store does sell cut flowers as well, and we got a lovely bouquet for $9.99. Only problem encountered so far was I noticed that we got charged for multiples of on a couple of items where we had only purchased one. Computer glitch? Inexperience checker? Who knows. I'll see how well they resolve it tomorrow when I go back. Darn. Gotta go.
I'll end this by noting that LIDL is very impressive, and it'll probably become a go to grocery store for many of us.