Changing shopping habits, especially in a new country, can be a headache …
For more years than I care to remember, I have done the majority of my food shopping at Tesco. This goes back to my youth when I used to meet my Mum after school and help with the weekly shop. At that time, the store in question was called Victor Value, but this eventually metamorphosed into Tesco. Rather like soap powders, early shopping influences tend to stick, and I considered myself quite fortunate that there was a Tesco store within relatively easy reach, no matter where I was living in the UK. Like many people, I was somewhat influenced by their customer loyalty card, and in some respects this proved to be quite advantageous.
Anyone reading this who is familiar with Tesco will be well aware of the company’s recent fall from grace. In recent years, their prices have escalated at an alarming rate whilst quality has often deteriorated and they have taken their customers for granted. To make matters worse, their profits have nosedived amidst various senior management scandals. Some twelve months ago, I was sufficiently influenced by a friend’s positive reviews, to venture into a branch of Aldi, albeit with a degree of trepidation. After all, I was venturing into something of an unknown entity, and my early recollections of discount food chains were hardly glowing. Fortunately, my fears were totally unfounded and I was agreeably surprised at the quality of products purchased, not to mention the considerable saving I was making against Tesco prices. The only downside is that the likes of Aldi don’t carry the range and choice of the big players but the financial savings were too good to ignore.
As time went by, I made more regular visits to Aldi and far fewer to Tesco. The lower prices far exceeded the value of any loyalty points earned at Tesco. However, no sooner had I familiarised myself with the nearest Aldi store to my house. when I had to move out of my property as a buyer had been found. This was the start of my eventual move to Spain. In the interim, I was still needing to food shop in the UK but as there were no Aldi stores within a considerable radius, I ventured into Lidl. Once again, I was greeted with lower prices and good quality products, so further trips to Tesco or the other big supermarkets ceased. In fact, seeing as I would be leaving the country, I telephoned Tesco to close my loyalty scheme account and their total lack of customer care astounded me. Given that they were losing customers at an alarming rate, one would have thought they might enquire as to why I was deserting them, but this was not forthcoming.
Having familiarised myself with Lidl, the time came for me to make the move to Spain. This would likely mean having to explore local supermarkets in the area and carry out essential quality control on produce, a task that I did not relish. There are three Spanish supermarkets represented where I’m now living, namely the largest called Mercadona, Maxi Día, and the smaller Coviran. All offer a fair range of products and overall, food prices in Spain are lower than in the UK. However, there is another major player in the market … namely Lidl … and their standards are exactly the same as those in the UK. To make life even easier, all their stores appear to be laid out in a fairly standard format, so shopping in a Lidl here in Spain is much like doing so in the UK. Whilst Aldi do have a presence here, there are no branches within easy travelling distance.
So what is the attraction of these so-called discount food retailers? I have already mentioned the substantial savings that can be made on a relatively big shop. The long established big supermarkets in the UK are having a tough time. Sainsbury’s, who had their worst Christmas trading in a decade, is cutting 500 jobs. Tesco is cutting a massive 10,000 jobs, closing 43 stores, and has axed 49 new superstore openings. Morrisons is also struggling and has announced the closure of 10 loss-making stores and 400 redundancies. The reason for this is the heavy discounting they’re now having to make to try and compete with the likes of Lidl and Aldi, to whom customers have defected in droves. The lure of loyalty cards and their perceived ‘benefits’ no longer entice customers, and the ‘buy one get one free’ promotions have had their day. Many people simply don’t want two products for the price of one, but a fair price for a single item. Lidl and Aldi now account for 10% of Britain’s grocery sales, and show every sign of increasing this. You won’t find many special offers apart from weekly promotions, but value for money is unquestionable and customers feel as though they’re being treated honestly and with some respect.
The same approach applies to the Lidl stores in Spain … and that is a company with a huge presence across Europe so they must be doing something right. To paraphrase Tesco’s strapline, every Lidl helps!