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The British Supermarket Revolution: Our Love Of Lidl and Aldi

Written by Richard Francis // Posted on // Found in EasyLife, FoodieLife

In the olden days our grandparents and parents used to say how you can tell a lot about a man (or woman) by the shoes and watch they wear. Admittedly there’s probably still legs in this saying, but for the most part it’s a dated turn of phrase.

Aldi Lidl

In the olden days our grandparents and parents used to say how you can tell a lot about a man (or woman) by the shoes and watch they wear. Admittedly there’s probably still legs in this saying, but for the most part it’s a dated turn of phrase.

In the modern age everyone has a pair of scruffy old trainers, regardless of how many zero’s they’ve got in their bank account. And who needs a watch when you’ve got a mobile? Yes, times have changed, and so have the ways that we Brits size each other up. Unlike in the old days where we silently judged shoes and watches, now, we scrutinise shopping bags instead – you can tell a lot from looking at a shopping bag.

You are where you shop?

If anybody tries to tell you class is dead in Britain, have a word – the class system is very much still with us, and supermarkets act as the barometer. Our choice in supermarket is seen as a key measure of where we sit on the social scale – until not long ago, around 60% of us believed this to be so.

Basically we’re a nation of supermarket snobs, and the supermarket snobbery rulebook goes something like this: if you’re upper-middle, your Waitrose bag is equivalent to wearing your school tie from Eton or Harrow, while Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s are the stores of choice if you’re middle class or lower-middle. Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have always been the respectable, low-cost supermarkets of choice for working-class grafters with families to feed, whereas if you shopped at Netto, Aldi or Lidl, the snooty, chattering types might sneer that you should have tried harder at school. And even if this system didn’t quite capture where you fit in, it’s a strong bet that your chosen supermarket gives a hint as to where you aspire to be or what you want others to think of you.

This was the model. This was how it worked if you followed the script. Well, that was until 2007/08, anyway – since this time, the old supermarket pecking order has been slowly but steadily turned on its head.

The food shopping revolution: Aldi and Lidl have gone credible

The Great Financial Crash of 8-years ago and the credit crunch that followed – an event many of us feel our finances still haven’t recovered from – forced millions of Brits to grudgingly change our traditional attitudes towards food shopping. Keeping up appearances becomes less of a priority when you’re worried about keeping a roof over your families head, after all.

A food shopping revolution has taken place which has seen shoppers desert the traditional ‘Big 4’ supermarkets en masse, in favour of discount supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl – the very same discount stores most of us wouldn’t have been seen dead in only a few years ago. And what’s shocked many is that revolution has increasingly been led by the middle classes, who have fled the Big 4 in droves.


Many thought that this migration to the budget supermarkets was temporary and would last only as long as the recession, including the big 4 supermarkets themselves. But even now, nearly a decade on, the big brand names like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda are surrendering ground to Aldi and Lidl. The two discount shopping brands have come a long way over the past 10-years, and now offer a wide range of high-quality foods and a shopping experience which means we don’t miss the Big-4 all that much. In other words, they’ve become as respectable as they are affordable.

The stats speak for themselves. Unlike the major supermarkets, who have closed nearly 100 stores and scrapped plans for over 100 new stores in the past year, Aldi alone built more new stores than Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons combined in 2015, when it built over 1.02million sq. ft of shop space. In terms of market share and who gets the most business from us shoppers, the Big 4 supermarkets are admittedly still out on their own – they account for 70% of food shopping sales, in case you were wondering. But when you consider that this is 10% less than a decade ago, and that Aldi and Lidl’s record year-on-year sales growth and growing customer base means that they are capturing an extra 1% market share each year, you can see why shopping’s big names are feeling the pain.

It speaks volumes that while Tesco was whalloped with a £6.4 billion loss last year, Aldi and Lidl saw sales growth of close to 30% and record profits.

What is it Aldi and Lidl are doing that Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda aren’t?

So why is it that Aldi and Lidl have done so well at their rival’s expense? Well for starters it helped that, up until a recent supermarket price war between the big name supermarkets and the discount supermarkets started recently, the average shop at Aldi was 22% cheaper than at Tesco – arguably the second cheapest of the Big 4 retailers.

However there is more to it than this. While price is still the leading factor – who doesn’t like a good deal on their food, after all – Aldi and Lidl’s success in recent years is as much down to the fact that they have a smart and simple way of doing business that lets them undercut the big names. For starters, Aldi and Lidl proudly state that over 90% of the goods on their shelves are ‘exclusive brands’ – these are goods by small independent manufacturers who offer the discount supermarkets a good price, which is then passed onto customers.

On top of this, Aldi and Lidl keep it simple when it comes to the range of products which are on offer to shoppers – unlike the major supermarkets, which would often stock 50,000+ different types of groceries and goods for us to choose from, Aldi and Lidl keep it simple by offering only around 1,300 different items. In other words they offer us all the core things that we need to put food on the table, and a respectable enough range of food for us not to feel like we’re back in the Soviet Union, but not enough where shoppers will get overwhelmed by too many options. The discount supermarkets benefit from this too, because a smaller range of goods needs less storage space and they can react faster to changes they detect in our shopping habits – this makes the likes of Aldi and Lidl better at delivering to us what we want.

Last but not least, another big reason why we’ve become so fond of these two previously unloved retailers is simply because the way we shop has changed over the last decade. Back in the mid-00’s, we were still happy to shop for food, groceries, clothes and even our TV’s and laptops at supermarkets and sprawling out-of-town hypermarkets – this was before online shopping had fully taken hold, and when we happier to lose an hour or so pushing a trolley around was in effect a huge great warehouse. Not anymore. Today, we want everything quick, we want things to be convenient, and we want things to be easy. We shop in smaller stores, when we’re not shopping online, and for this reason we’re increasingly doing our shopping in convenience stores and smaller supermarkets, just like Aldi and Lidl.

It’s no blip – Aldi and Lidl are here to stay

With sales figures expected to keep growing at double-digit percentages for the foreseeable future, and with trends showing that we shoppers will continue to want discount and convenience over a return to the old ways of doing things, it’s clear that Aldi and Lidl are here to stay. And with both of the German-owned supermarkets set to enter the online grocery shopping market soon, they might well make life even harder for the long-suffering major supermarket retailers.

So in short, they are great, they are cheap, and you can get everything you need. Importantly, you won’t get judged by the Joneses for doing your food shop with them. So choose a good deal – choose Aldi and Lidl, if you want to shop smart.

Written by Richard Francis // Posted on // Found in EasyLife, FoodieLife


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