German grocer Lidl, one of the biggest supermarket chains in the world, is entering the Triangle’s crowded grocery store market.
Lidl – pronounced “lee-dil” – broke ground in Wake Forest in August, and the company has plans for one store in Raleigh and two in Cary. It is also considering a site in Clayton, and a distribution center is already under construction in Mebane.
The discount grocer has more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries. It hopes to open its first stores in the United States no later than 2018, according to company spokesman Will Harwood.
The company’s arrival will give shoppers yet another option in a growing field of grocers, including Wal-Mart, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Kroger and Publix.
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Its biggest competitor, though, might be Aldi, also a German company that already has several Triangle stores. Some of Lidl’s local plans call for stores near current Aldi locations.
“Our expansion is driven by our belief that Lidl will be a great option and shopping destination for customers in the area,” Harwood wrote in an email.
Construction has begun on a Lidl store at the intersection of N.C. 98 and South Main Street in Wake Forest.
In April, the Raleigh Planning Commission approved site plans for a Lidl store near the corner of Old Wake Forest Road and Ronald Drive.
Lidl has filed early planning documents on two Cary sites: near the intersection of Northwest Maynard Road and North Harrison Avenue and the intersection of Tryon Road and Kildaire Farm Road.
In Cary, Lidl stores will be about 36,000 square feet, said Rob Wilson, the town’s planning manager. Aldi stores in Cary are about 16,000 square feet.
Lidl is conducting a traffic study of U.S. 70 Business in Clayton as part of potential plans to build a store across from Wal-Mart.
The company offers low prices because it buys products in bulk and displays them on shelves in shipping cartons, said Jon Springer, retail editor at Supermarket News, a New York-based magazine. The trade publication has been reporting on the company’s U.S. ambitions since 2013.
“Because they buy this stuff in a small variety of items in massive quantities and merchandise them in a low-labor environment, they are able to offer market-leading prices,” Springer said.
Lidl has already faced some opposition in the Triangle. In January, the Apex Town Council voted unanimously to deny a rezoning request on a 5-acre parcel owned by Lidl U.S. Operations at the corner of Olive Chapel Road and West Williams Street. Residents had said they were worried about traffic, noise and the smell of rotting produce in dumpsters.
Springer said Lidl hasn’t shared much about its U.S. strategy, but rumors of the European chain’s arrival may be why companies like Publix and Wegmans are entering the North Carolina market. Wegmans has announced its intentions to open its first North Carolina store in Cary, with a second one a possibility.
“The specter of Lidl coming to the Southeast is part of what’s motivating the heightened level of competition,” Springer said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi