Lidl has become a stealthy, unglamorous agent of change
The budget retailer has made basic shopping fashionable and modern
“Lidl has brought the show-and-tell phenomenon to our shopping, and made cheapness a virtue as well as a necessity.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley
The terrible news that Burgundy vineyards in the Côte de Beaune region were devastated by storms last week brought only one response from some of us: will this disaster mean less burgundy in Lidl?
Is burgundy going to go the way of the tinned mushrooms (completely vanished from the shelves, and quite recently) and that great asparagus that used to come in jars (gone for years but not forgotten)?
The Côte de Beaune was swept by freak hailstorms, and people watched the weather “pummelling grapes, tearing leaves from the vines and flooding the vineyards”, according to the Financial Times. The hailstones were the size of ping-pong balls, apparently. Still, all some of us could see were gaps on the shelves in Lidl’s wine section, which is almost always situated near the newspapers and the firelighters (an unflattering pairing in the view of many in the media).
This is globalisation, I suppose. I’m not 100 per cent sure that I know precisely what burgundy is, but when I visualise a shortage of it the scene is played out, horribly, in Lidl.
But then you have to remember that the wine shelves of Lidl frequently look pretty patchy even when there isn’t a world shortage on the horizon. First of all the stuff comes in sporadically. And then the good stuff is swept up frantically. People drive from store to store to stockpile good wine – and good beer.
Like many consumer responses to shopping and shortages, it’s an emotional thing. In shopping now it’s always an emergency; it’s always life during wartime. The retailers can only follow this sort of irrationality at a distance, with clipboards. But they know that it is real.
Shopping is fraught with feeling. In its clunky way Lidl understands this. Who else is going to come up with a washing up liquid called W5 Sensitive?
Last week we got our own branch of Lidl in our Dublin village and to tell the truth, and to quote Prince William in another connection, we couldn’t be happier. We were knee-deep in flash restaurants; it was cheap groceries that we completely lacked . And those peeled red peppers in jars. Now we never need to go anywhere again.
You can talk about your 1913 Lockout and your Vatican II but, like television and the motorcar, Lidl is a stealthy bringer of change.
It is unglamorous – my God, is there anywhere less glamorous than Lidl? – and does not have any catchy slogans. Its unspoken slogan at the moment seems to be: “Doughnut peaches for the masses”, which can only be a good thing, although it’s quite difficult to say. Lidl’s own language is reassuringly strange. Who could resist a honey called Marlene? Its label declares it to be “a blend of EC and non-EC honeys”, a statement carefully designed to mean nothing.