Battle of the Budget Grocers: Aldi vs. Lidl

Vinod Pandey

Two rival German retailers are fighting for grocery store dominance. Let's find out which one is better. Welcome to Our Website Query Solvers. My name is Ethan and today we're talking about two German discount grocery chains and how they compare to one another.

Now, if you've been coming to this website for a while, you know, I've already professed my love for Aldi. On a recent vacation in Georgia, I stopped in and visited another German discount grocery store Lidl, and thought it might be a cool idea to make an article comparing the two. 

Aldi vs. Lidl
pic credit: Business Insider

So today I want to compare Aldi and Lidl and talk about a few things, some background info about the two chains, what their store sizes and layouts look like there are similarities and differences, and how prices at the two stores compare. 

Before we jump in, I'm curious to know whether you shop at Aldi or Lidl. If so, which store do you prefer? And why? let me know in the comments section below. All right, let's talk about these two stores. All right.I thought I'd begin with a little bit of background info about both of these grocery chains. 

Background Information

Starting with Aldi. Aldi is a grocery store conglomerate that's headquartered in Essen, Germany and they have over 11,000 grocery store locations worldwide.Aldi stores can be found in Europe, Asia, the US and Australia. Aldi, which originally expanded to the United States market in 1976 says they serve 36 states and have about 2200 locations across the US. 

Lidl is another grocery store chain headquartered in Neckar.

Lidl is another grocery store chain headquartered in Neckar.So Germany Lidl has over 12,000 locations and they are located throughout Europe and the United States. Now Lidl was quite a bit late to the game in expanding into the United States and they didn't come to the US market until 2017.That means that their rival Aldi had over a 40 year head start here in the US market. Lidl currently serves 8 states along with the district of Columbia. Those states are Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Georgia right now.Lidl has about 170 locations across the eastern seaboard of the US. 

Also Read: Why Aldi is bad: The Dark Side of Aldi

Store Size & Layout

Alright, now that we have covered a little bit of background information about both of these chains. Let's talk about their store layouts and sizes to start off.All these stores are usually around 18,000 square feet in size. They can be standalone stores or located in a shopping plaza with other stores. In the past, Aldi store design has been a little bit stark and utilitarian. Their stores generally had a limited number of windows.

Store Size & Layout

They utilized fluorescent lighting and they had a lot of coal dull tile around the store in recent years. However, they've made big strides in the design department and they've started to make stores that are a lot brighter, airy and open. Nowadays, their stores feature more windows.

They have bright colorful signage and they take nature inspired queues with things like wood to flooring and colorful accents on the walls. All of these U.S. stores are typically located in suburban areas that are within three miles of a major population center. 

Generally, Aldi likes to put their stores on a main road that has an intersection with a stoplight. Now in general, Aldi focuses on smaller footprint stores and they usually just carry the bare essentials. As a result, most of their departments can be pretty streamlined.All these US stores typically carry around 1400 individual products. 

Lidl's U.S. stores are around 36,000 square feet

By contrast, Lidl's U.S. stores are around 36,000 square feet or about double the size. Now, unlike Aldi, Lidl generally operates standalone stores, you don't usually see their stores in a shopping plaza with other shops.

Lidl stores are quite sleek, modern, airy and inviting. Generally, their store architecture uses a lot of glass and open spaces and they're generally a nice place to be just like Aldi.Lidl generally locates their stores in suburban areas and they try to stay within two miles of a major population center similar to Aldi. Lidl tries to stay on main roads with intersections and stop lights just to increase the amount of foot traffic that's coming in.

Since Lidl stores are quite a bit larger. They're a bit closer in format to the full service grocery stores that we're more accustomed to here in the US. While Aldi stores carry around 1400 products, Lidl's US stores carry around 4000 products.

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Now that we talked about both store size and layout. Let's talk about some similarities between the two. First of all, both of these stores have German parent companies. So they have some similar philosophies about things like store layout design, architecture and the general shopping experience.

Both stores offer relatively bare-bones shopping experiences. These include things like open shelving, simple signage and relatively spartan store interiors. In both stores, you're going to see bulk stacking of products on the shelves and in the aisles and it's usually going to be in the original shipping boxes.

Both chains favor streamlined store designs that forego some of the amenities that bigger grocery chains have. These are going to be things like in-house Delis meat counters, seafood counters and dining areas.Something that's a commonality between both of these stores is the fact that neither of them offer free grocery bags. 

Similarities in Aldi and Lidl

As a result, you're going to need to either bring your own grocery bags from home or purchase some when you get to the store.Another thing that's similar about both of the stores is that both offer a wide range of private label products and generally don't stock a huge selection of name brand products.

 Another thing that is similar between the two stores is that both tend to carry a nice selection of European specialty products. These are going to be things like jams and jellies, chocolates, baked goods and seasonal items.One thing that I've noticed is that while Aldi does carry a pretty good selection of these things, Lidl just seems to have more of these types of items on the shelf and they dedicate a good bit of shelf space to things like European seasonal items that Aldi doesn't seem to do as much.

Another similarity between both the stores is the fact that both chains have low prices on everyday essentials. These are going to be things like milk, eggs, sugar, flour, canned goods and fruits and vegetables.And finally, another unique thing that both of these grocery chains share is the fact that they both carry a small selection of non grocery items. These are things like apparel, furniture, home improvement items, small appliances and even electronics.

Also Read: Publix Pharmacy vs. Walmart Pharmacy: Which One Is Right for You?

The Difference

All right, we talked about the similarities between both of these stores. Now, let's talk about the differences. These are just a few of the differences that I've noticed in the stores that I visited. They may not be universal differences, but I still wanted to mention them. Anyway, the first difference that I noticed was in the cart experience. 

Aldi requires you to put in a 25 cent deposit to borrow one of their shopping carts and Lidl does not do this.I've been to several Lidl grocery stores across several states and I've not noticed any chains on the grocery carts or any of the mechanisms to put the coins into. So that's something that is a little bit different about Lidl than Aldi.

Difference between aldi and lidl

Another difference is in the checkout experience, Aldi generally has a mix of cashiers and self checkouts in their stores and I've noticed that they've started to migrate more and more towards self checkout in their newer stores.

The Lidl store that I visited in Augusta, Georgia does not have any self checkout kiosks. It was all employees that were checking you out at a physical counter. So that was the difference that I noticed.I will say that I have been to a couple of Lidl stores that did have self checkout. I don't know if this is a location by location difference or whether Lidl at some point removed self check out from their stores.

If you know the answer to that, let me know down in the comments section. Another difference between Aldi and Lidl is the fact that Lidl has in-store bakeries at all of their US grocery stores, whereas Aldi does not have in-store bakeries at a majority of their US stores.

Aldi has recently begun piloting a program where they're putting in-store bakeries into select locations, but these are not available in my Florida stores. I've never visited one before, so I can't speak to the quality or the type of baked goods that they put out.

I just found out that it was a program that they started back recently and we may see more in store bakeries at Aldi soon. Another difference between the two stores is the size of the stores.As we mentioned, Lidl stores are generally about twice the size of your average Aldi store. 

As a result, pretty much every section in your Lidl grocery store is going to be larger since Lidl's grocery store format is quite a bit bigger. Lidl tends to feel a little bit more like an American style supermarket than Aldi does. 

Another thing that is a direct result of the size difference between Aldi and Lidl is the amount of items that both stores offer. Lidl in general just has a much larger quantity and selection of items on hand. Their refrigerated and freezer section is absolutely massive compared to Aldi's offering. 

And it just seems like most departments have more selection in them than Aldi stores do.Another unique benefit of Lidl stores being a bit large is the amount of staff that they have on hand. 

The times that I visited Lidl's stores, there always seemed to be more staff on the floor ready to assist you or stocking the shelves.

During my most recent visit, there are around 3 to 5 employees on the floor stocking the shelves, cleaning and helping customers out.So while it is a minor difference, if you've never been to the store before, it's nice to have an employee on hand, you can ask questions to that can help you find a particular item or can just show you around.

The final difference that I noticed between Aldi and Lidl is the fact that Lidl offers their customers a rewards program. Lidl offers customers a loyalty program that allows them to accumulate points towards rewards. The Lidl app also offers shoppers coupons on a variety of items in store.

Another thing that I noticed the last time I was there was that the Lidl app offers a $5 off of 30 promotional sign up bonus if you download the app and sign up for the Lidl rewards program.Now, this seems to be a little bit more of a newer offering because I don't remember there being a Lidl rewards program last time I visited a Lidl store. So this must be something that was rolled out within the last couple of years.

Now, while Lidl does offer a loyalty rewards program and coupons off of select items, Aldi does not do that. They don't have a mobile app, they don't have a rewards program and as far as I know they don't accept coupons or even offer coupons on their products.

How Prices Compare

All right. Now that we talked about the differences, I want to look at the last thing and that is how the prices compare at these two stores.Now, the prices that I'm about to tell you were collected on the same day in the same city, I visited an Aldi store and a Lidl store in Augusta, Georgia on July 23rd of this year.Let's take a look at how they stack.

Beginning with a dozen eggs at Aldi, a dozen eggs cost a $18 while at Lidl, they cost a little bit more at a $33. The next thing I took a look at was a gallon of milk. It's just a regular old 2% milk at all.

Aldi, that gallon of milk costs $2.78. At Lidl, that same gallon of milk cost $2.81. Just a few more cents. I stayed in the dairy aisle and I looked at what the price of an eight ounce package of sliced cheese was. 

At Aldi, it was a $89. At Lidl, the price was exactly the same at a $89. Next, I moved on to a loaf of bread. Aldi's price was a $29 for a standard loaf of bread. Surprisingly, the price was exactly the same Lidl at a $29.  

As you can see, the prices are very similar, if not the same on a lot of items at Aldy and Lidl, you might have a little bit of a higher price on one item at one store while another item is slightly higher at the other.I think in the end it just about averages out and they're very similar price wise. 

Also Read: Exploring Walmart's Flower Selection: Types, Prices, and Options

Some Closing Thoughts About Aldi & Lidl

All right, as you can see both of these stores have their strengths and their weaknesses.But I think that both of these are both fantastic shopping options if you have them in your area. I think the great thing about both of these stores is that they both offer cost savings on key staple items.

They also have a nice selection of private label offerings and they both offer a good selection of European specialty items as well. I will say, however, since Lidl has larger and more spacious stores, a bigger selection of products, an instore bakery and a rewards program, I think I would probably choose to shop there if I had one nearby.

The big disadvantage with Lidl, of course, is the fact that they currently have a limited number of stores and all of them are situated along the east coast of the US right now.

I really, really hope that Lidl continues to expand in the US and that Aldi continues to refine and expand their options as well. I wholeheartedly think that competition is good for both of these chains. And in the end, it's good for us as consumers.

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