Lidl is going on a 'Claret offensive'

The not-so-Lidl German supermarket is targetting wealthier shoppers with French wines.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 28 Aug 2014

It sounds like the kind of foolhardy battle manoeuvre Blackadder’s General Melchett would have proposed, but ‘Claret offensive’ is the way Lidl has decided to describe its latest sales salvo. The upstart German discounter is buying up more than 1 million bottles of ‘premium’ French wines as it targets wealthier shoppers and plots a foray into central London.

It’s a pretty bombastic way to describe launching a range of 48 wines, which will hit the shelves in September for between £4.99 and £25.99 a bottle (if it’s a success bosses are even considering selling a £49.99 2000 Premier Cru Hospices de Beaune from Burgundy), prices Lidl is claiming are a third less than similar wines in bigger chains.

But the £12m gamble is nothing if not a statement of intent from a supermarket that, along with fellow German Aldi, is gobbling up market share from Tesco et al, with no sign of slowing down.

‘If a few years ago we had stocked a St-Emilion Grand Cru we would only have sold about one a month and it wouldn’t have worked,’ Lidl senior buying manager Ben Hulme. ‘But internally we feel massively confident about it now. We want to be aiming at people who have not considered us before. The message is "come and a give it a try".’

The discounter, whose sales grew more than 22% in the year to July, is also opening up in ‘Waitrose country’, with new stores in commuter belt towns such as Maidenhead and Dorking.

‘We would be stupid to say "no" to central London,’ Hulme added. ‘There are challenges but if we really want to be established as a leading retailer in the UK then we have to have a presence in central London.’

You can’t fault Lidl’s confidence, but it remains to be seen whether its penny-pinching customers will be raising glasses of Bordeaux or sticking to bottles of Black Tower.

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