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Lidl-West Babylon NY-store exterior.JPG Photo by Russell Redman
So far, Lidl has announced eight locations on Long Island, with this store in West Babylon, N.Y., one of the first two outlets opened.

Lidl sees opportunity for 50 Long Island stores

Hard discount grocer expects pricing, convenience to resonate with shoppers

Lidl last week launched its banner at the first of two dozen stores in metropolitan New York’s Long Island but sees the opportunity to have twice that many locations there.

Germany-based Lidl opened two stores, in West Babylon and Center Moriches, N.Y., on Dec. 11 and is slated to open another in Huntington, N.Y., this week. The West Babylon and Huntington stores were converted from the Best Market supermarkets, which Lidl acquired earlier this year, while the Center Moriches location is a brand-new store occupying a former Waldbaum’s space.

“We're focused right now on delivering the most convenient shopping experience, which means great locations,” said William Harwood, Lidl US communications director, at the West Babylon store grand opening. “We're continuing to look all across the Island. We could envision over 50 stores here.”

Arlington, Va.-based Lidl US announced the acquisition of Best Market in November 2018 and finalized the transaction in early 2019. Of the 27 Best Markets acquired, 24 are on Long Island, two are in New York City (Astoria and Harlem) and one is in Holmdel, N.J. A small Best Market store in Hicksville, on Long Island, was closed in September.

“The Best Market locations are convenient. We're going to continue to convert those. We're really excited to open them, and that's just the beginning for us,” Harwood said. “We have the two today. We have one next week in Huntington, and Plainview will come by early 2020. And then the second wave is East Meadow, Patchogue, Lake Grove and Oakdale. Those will be coming by the summer of 2020. So we'll have eight stores here in no time, and then we'll continue to convert and open more.”

Photo by Russell RedmanLidl-West Babylon NY-grand opening.JPG

An early morning snowfall didn't keep Long Islanders away from the West Babylon Lidl's grand opening event, as shoppers were both curious and excited about the area's new grocer.

Lidl expects to finish converting all of the Best Market stores within the next two years, according to Harwood. Of the eight announced so far for Long Island, two are in Nassau County and six are in Suffolk County. The Plainview store will take over a former ShopRite space, while the upcoming East Meadow, Oakdale, Patchogue and Lake Grove locations will be converted Best Markets.

“Customers have a lot to look forward to,” Harwood said, noting that Lidl pairs low grocery pricing with smaller, well-organized stores for faster, more convenient shopping. “At the end of the day, it means huge savings for a Long Islanders in terms of price and time. And those are things that we're really excited to deliver for them.”

At the West Babylon Lidl’s grand opening, a sign just inside the entrance spelled out the savings for customers: a weekly shopping basket of $92.79 for Lidl and $193.32 for the former Best Market.

“The basket is $100 cheaper at Lidl than what you'd find at Best Market. So with us moving into the market, just from Best Market to Lidl, that’s $100 back in your pocket. What are you going to do with that each week? That’s $400 a month,” said Harwood. “That means a lots of people to be able to do that.”

Highlights of the West Babylon store include a fresh bakery, an expanded general merchandise and seasonal goods section, a large refrigerated and frozen foods department and — in response to customer input — a fresh-sliced deli meats and cheese display, where items are wrapped for grab-and-go convenience.

“We're really excited to be introducing a deli into Long Island as a pilot because of the feedback that we've taken in,” Harwood said.

Photo by Russell RedmanLidl-produce department-West Babylon NY.JPG

The fresh produce section, which features an ample assortment of organic items, is expected to become a destination department for the store.

“Lidl is a company with 11,000 stores globally, and each country operates with a great degree of independence in terms of the assortment,” he added. “We're always listening and adapting to the local markets that we operate in. That's how you have to go to grow and be successful like Lidl.”

Hard discount grocer Lidl encountered snags with its U.S. launch in 2017 and scaled back initial plans to open 100 stores over the following year. However, the company quickly reset its real estate strategy — to include smaller stores and leased sites, rather than just build-and-own locations — and has steadily grown its store base and earned high marks from customers.

The retailer now operates about operates about 80 stores in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. Lidl edged into the metro New York area in late 2018 with the opening of stores in Union, N.J., and Staten Island, N.Y.

Last week, Lidl also announced the purchase of six Shoppers Food & Pharmacy stores in Maryland and Virginia from United Natural Foods.

“Lidl has done a lot to correct the mistakes it made when it first entered the US market. It always had low prices and high-quality own-label products, but poor store location decisions and underprepared store personnel blunted the impact of its discount offer in the U.S.,” strategic advisory firm Brick Meets Click observed in an analysis last week. “As Lidl addresses these issues, we expect to see faster sales growth in the near term, especially as it enters dense, new markets like New York.”

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