MaltaToday | 06 April 2008 | Lidl’s first offer: free controversies

NEWS | Sunday, 06 April 2008

Lidl’s first offer: free controversies

David Darmanin

Lidl, the low-cost supermarket chain with the fourth highest turnover in Europe, announced Thursday that it is set to open the doors of three outlets in Malta on 24 April. The outlet in Safi, whose issue of permit caused the controversial en bloc resignation of MEPA’s development control board last month, is due to open in October.
“It is not our intention to do anything against the law,” Lidl Malta country manager David Gatt said at a press conference. “In fact, we were in no way involved in the application process as we only claim ownership of our outlets after all permits have been approved.”
Asked to comment about the fact that the issue of permit for their Safi development has been described by none other than the MEPA auditor as “illegal”, Gatt admitted that “we are not happy that the development has been described as such, but perhaps this question needs to be asked to the MEPA officer himself.”
With the first application submitted in 2003, construction magnate Charles Polidano applied for the development a total of seven Lidl supermarkets – five of which are outside Malta’s development zone (ODZ). The supermarkets opening this month in St Venera and San Gwann fall within scheme, whereas the one in Luqa was granted a permit for development outside scheme, in spite of the conflicting safety norms set by the Civil Aviation Department.
Asked whether they will be looking into setting up new stores after opening the supermarket in Safi, Gatt said that Lidl will be looking into expansion but did not go into further detail.
Lidl Malta is owned by Lidl Italia, which is in turn fully owned by the multinational group Lidl & Schwarz – controlled by German heir Dieter Schwarz, estimated to be worth €10.25 billion. “There are no Maltese shares in Lidl, and we do not work on a franchise system – our outlets are fully run by employees,” said Lidl Italia’s Chief Financial Officer Luca Boselli.
“Another misconception we would like to clear is that Lidl is not a hyper-market,” Gatt said. “Whereas a typical supermarket in Malta would stock a range of 60,000 products, we will be limiting our range to 1,100 products – some of which Lidl branded and some others local. A typical household does not normally use more than 500 different products. Our range will consist of both food and non-food items,” he said, adding that Lidl is a community utility store and not a bulk wholesaler, as sometimes perceived.
The standard size of Lidl outlets is typically of 1,000 sq. m. and 120 car park spaces.
Lidl employs 150,000 employees in 8,000 stores worldwide. In Malta, Lidl has employed more than 50 recruits, who are currently undergoing training.
Often criticised for breaching European directives on working time, Lidl abroad has also been at the centre of controversial matters over the treatment of its workers. In the UK, Lidl was accused of spying on its workforce with cameras, making extensive notes on employee behaviour and focusing on attempting to sack female workers who might become pregnant. In 2003, Lidl Italia was sentenced in criminal courts for employing anti-union policies.

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