- Lidl announced it will open four stores on Long Island next year — the "first of several waves of openings" following its acquisition of 27 Best Market stores in December, according to a company release. The openings include a mix of remodeled stores as well as new builds.
- The discounter plans to open remodeled Best Market stores in the towns of Babylon and Huntington and will open new locations in Plainview and Center Moriches. The Plainview location will replace the current Best Market store in Hicksville.
- The retailer said it will heavily invest in the Long Island region and will use local contractors for construction projects. Lidl also said it plans to offer jobs to all legacy Best Market employees at wages that are equal to or above what they've been earning.
Lidl's acquisition of Best Market late last year left a few lingering questions about how the grocer would leverage the asset. Would the company keep the chain's service departments, including meat and deli, intact to some degree or swap them out for its legacy discounter model? And would Lidl build new locations, or just remodel existing Best Markets?
Tuesday's announcement brought some clarity to both those questions. Will Harwood, a spokesman for Lidl, confirmed to Grocery Dive that these first four locations will follow the company's traditional store model, which doesn't include any service departments except for a grab-and-go bakery section. He declined to say whether Lidl will continue to remodel Best Market stores in this fashion, noting that the company is continuing to listen to shoppers in the region.
Harwood said the new store openings in Plainview and Center Moriches will take place in retail spaces formerly owned by Best Market. It's unclear how much retail real estate Best Market owns outside of its existing stores, though it does open the door for Lidl to introduce even more stores to the Long Island region than the current 27 it acquired.
In its statement, Lidl said it is excited to bring its "simple and efficient shopping" to Long Island customers, but loyal northeastern Best Market shoppers may not be so keen on Lidl removing service counters, which are trip drivers for many grocers. Lidl did not indicate where it will place workers who specialize in Best Market's service departments.
Although it doesn't offer traditional service counters, Lidl does have a selection of fresh packaged meat, seafood and deli items in addition to its bakery selections. Selling customers on the quality and value of these products will be key for the company as it competes with the likes of Whole Foods and Stop & Shop for consumer dollars.
Depending on how shoppers respond, Lidl may wind up retaining some or all of the service departments Best Market customers are used to in its future expansion waves. The discounter is trying to stay flexible with its U.S. growth, as evidenced by the December acquisition, which breaks with Lidl's preference to build new stores from scratch. The chain has also broadened its range of real estate options to include smaller stores in line with its European model, and last year opened its first mall location in Staten Island.
Jeff Wells contributed reporting to this story.