Lidl throws down gauntlet to rival stores

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PRICE wars between supermarkets are set to intensify after a study found discount store Lidl was almost a third cheaper than the major chains.

The German business was included in The Grocer magazine’s weekly price survey for the first time, which found that it sold a basket of common groceries 29 per cent cheaper than Tesco.

Lidl also scored 78 out of 100 for customer service during a “mystery shopper” test, just one point behind Tesco Extra.

It came level with Waitrose and beat Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.

A weekly shop at Lidl cost £49.23, compared with £57.83 at Morrisons, £59.95 at Asda, £63.73 at Tesco, £64.50 at Sainsbury’s and £71.84 at Waitrose.

Only three Lidl products could be found cheaper elsewhere –- cauliflower at Asda and Chicago Town pizza and Laughing Cow cheese at Morrisons.

Both Lidl and fellow German discounter Aldi made record sales as price competition weighed heaviest on the country’s big four players, according to figures released last month.

Lidl saw its sales leap 19.5 per cent, which kept the firm’s market share at its record level of 3.6 per cent, while sales at Aldi rocketed 32 per cent over the year, taking its market share to a record 4.8 per cent, just behind upmarket Waitrose.

This week Waitrose became the latest store to offer four pints of milk for £1, the same as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda and only slightly more than Lidl and Aldi, who charge 95p.

The Grocer news editor Ronan Hegarty said: “It’s not a huge surprise Lidl is cheaper but the interesting thing is they are ranking highly for customer service. The big chains now have to up their game.”

A spokesperson for Bradford-based Morrisons hit back at discounters, saying: “Discounters offer a cheap alternative on some products but they still have a lot of work to do on their ranges, store standards, service and the integrity of their food.

“We already offer very good value for money and earlier this year we increased this further by announcing 1,400 permanent price reductions on everyday essentials with an average drop of 16 per cent.

“We’re also making our stores easier in which to shop, sharpening our service and making our stores a much more pleasant environment. The discounters can’t match our fresh food offering, either. We have more skilled specialists on hand to prepare more fresh food in store than any other retailer, with over 6,000 fully trained crafts people in our stores including butchers, bakers, fishmongers and cheesemongers.”

A spokesman for Leeds-based Asda said it had won The Grocer’s annual lowest priced supermarket award for 17 years running.

“In November last year we announced a five-year strategy to redefine value retailing in the UK. This followed a recognition from Asda more than two years ago of a structural shift in the market.”

Asda said it had cut the cost of many everyday products to 50p and was an “everyday low price retailer” which others were copying. Low prices had “been at the heart of our business for decades – it’s not a tap you can turn on and off”.