Business

Lidl’s U.S. stores are too big and too expensive, CEO says. But more are in the works.

The Lidl store in Wake Forest opened last year, followed by one in Raleigh.
The Lidl store in Wake Forest opened last year, followed by one in Raleigh. The News & Observer

Lidl, the German grocer that has built several stores on the East Coast, including 16 in North Carolina, may have overreached, according to its leader.

Lidl’s U.S. stores are too big and too expensive, Klaus Gehrig, CEO of the group that owns the grocery store chain, recently told the German publication Manager Magazine. He said the company did a poor job choosing locations and didn’t recognize Americans’ shopping preferences, such as for prepared food.

Last year, Lidl opened one store in Raleigh and another in Wake Forest. A third is expected to open in Cary, where plans have been approved. The Cary property owner declined to comment.

Gehrig said 20 stores will open this year, which falls short of the company’s plan to open up to 100 stores by this summer.

A spokesman for Lidl in the U.S., Chandler Ebeier, told The News & Observer on Tuesday that a 100-store ceiling was set in the wake of speculation that the company planned to open hundreds or thousands of stores within a year.

Lidl has opened 48 stores in six East Coast states and plans to open more, Ebeier said by email. He said other sites are being developed in the U.S., but the company isn’t ready to announce them yet.

The Charlotte Observer, which first reported on the magazine interview Tuesday morning, said construction of a Lidl in Mooresville has been temporarily suspended, and progress has slowed at another Lidl site in Charlotte.

Lidl is part of a surge of discount grocers that have increased their presence in the United States. The company commissioned a study from UNC-Chapel Hill earlier this month that found Lidl stores force competitors to lower prices by an average of 9 percent.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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