Lidl eyes small-format stores with online order pickup

Dive Brief:

  • German grocery giant Lidl is testing Lidl Express, a revamped format with a dedicated in-store location for customers to pick up online orders and shop for fresh products, Ecommerce News Europe reports. This effort follows Lidl’s plans to begin selling specific items online.
  • Lidl operates more than 10,000 stores throughout Europe, but Lidl Express will be much smaller than its existing formats. Customers will be able to order fruit, vegetables, milk and other items with a limited shelf-time online and get them in the store.
  • The first Lidl Express store, currently under construction in Berlin, reportedly may open as soon as this winter. Lidl eventually may convert all of its brick-and-mortar stores into pickup locations for online orders.

Dive Insight:

Lidl has been mentioned before as one of the companies that could pose a threat to Wal-Mart as it looks to become an international force in grocery, and the news of Lidl Express closely follows Wal-Mart’s own announcement that it is testing a smaller format convenience store concept that would allow customers to pick up online orders of some items.

With Amazon branching out into physical stores, Wal-Mart seems determined to become a major force in the integration of online ordering that still leverages in-store inventory. Wal-Mart’s Jet acquisition shows exactly how far it is willing to go to win at the beat Amazon at its own game — spending more than $3 billion to make Jet’s dynamic pricing model, innovative logistics and other capabilities its own.

Still, Lidl can’t be taken lightly. It’s a unit of Germany largest retail conglomerate, and while its getting into the convenience grocery store segment at the same time as Wal-Mart, it is worth noting that buy-online, pick up in-store for groceries is a much more popular concept in Europe — Lidl’s home territory — right now than it is in the U.S., according to a Business Insider Business Intelligence report.

Is the concept of small express stores that let users pick up previously-ordered items the future of grocery? Amazon, Wal-Mart and Lidl all seem to think that to some extent it is. Now we’ll see who delivers most effectively on that ambition.

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