Lidl has become a stealthy, unglamorous agent of change
The budget retailer has made basic shopping fashionable and modern
How has Lidl changed Ireland? Let us count the ways. We’re going to leave out things like those spooky vacuum-sealed lobsters that appear around Christmas. And we’re also going to leave out the promiscuous pleasure of the five excellent and extraordinarily cheap toothbrushes, all different colours, in one pack.
It is an absolute certainty that Lidl brought the affordable wetsuit to a country surrounded by blood-chilling seas, and is therefore probably responsible for the surge in popularity of surfing here (this is my cousin’s theory and a good one). During your normal Irish summer Lidl wetsuits are the only reason that there are adults in the water at all.
It has brought cheap cut flowers into Irish houses throughout the winter – ecologically unsound but very cheering.
Its vegetables are cheap and good – not always the case in Irish supermarkets previously or even now.
Lidl has made basic shopping fashionable – more than fashionable, it has made it modern. You are not offered a great variety of choice in Lidl or Aldi; it is a pretty straightforward shopping experience. It is this virtue which has brought in the male shoppers. For years men have suspected that women were over-complicating the family shop – and they could have been right about that – and secretly thought they could do a whole lot better themselves.
On the cold day in hell on which the supermarkets operating in Ireland eventually share their information with the public which pays their salaries we may learn whether there are more male shoppers in Lidl and Aldi than in the other Irish supermarkets.
Lidl has certainly brought the show-and-tell phenomenon to our shopping, and made cheapness a virtue as well as a necessity. Getting bargains or weird things – or weird things at a bargain price – in Lidl or Aldi is a public pleasure, to be boasted about by men – and women – who for years could not have unlocked a shopping trolley if they’d tried.
As you go round Lidl, guiltily trying to balance all the imports with some Irish goods, it’s easy to forget what it was like here before the German chains arrived. Now they’re here to stay, thank God.