Strategy A German grocery chain with the power to crush Whole Foods and Trader Joe's has officially invaded America — here's what it's like

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The German grocery chain Lidl opened its first 10 US stores on Thursday. Here's what it's like to shop there.

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(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)
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The German grocery chain Lidl opened its first 10 US stores on Thursday after years of preparing to enter the American market.

The new store openings — located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia — are the start of an aggressive expansion plan that Lidl is planning to carry out across the US over the next several years.

The company plans to open 80 new stores along the East Coast by the middle of next year.

Lidl describes itself as a cross between Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter and promises to offer prices that are as much as 50% lower than its competition in the US.

We visited a Lidl store in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to see what it’s like.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the store before 7 a.m. on Thursday for its grand opening.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the store before 7 a.m. on Thursday for its grand opening. play

Hundreds of people lined up outside the store before 7 a.m. on Thursday for its grand opening.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The first shoppers through the doors were met with cheers from dozens of employees.

The first shoppers through the doors were met with cheers from dozens of employees. play

The first shoppers through the doors were met with cheers from dozens of employees.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


This is Lidl US CEO Brendan Proctor, who ran Lidl's Ireland unit before joining the US team. He walked us through the store.

This is Lidl US CEO Brendan Proctor, who ran Lidl's Ireland unit before joining the US team. He walked us through the store. play

This is Lidl US CEO Brendan Proctor, who ran Lidl's Ireland unit before joining the US team. He walked us through the store.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Inside, the store is brightly lit with high ceilings and natural wood accents.

Inside, the store is brightly lit with high ceilings and natural wood accents. play

Inside, the store is brightly lit with high ceilings and natural wood accents.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl advertises its "fresh 5 specials" discount at the entrance. The store picks new products for the discount twice weekly.

Lidl advertises its "fresh 5 specials" discount at the entrance. The store picks new products for the discount twice weekly. play

Lidl advertises its "fresh 5 specials" discount at the entrance. The store picks new products for the discount twice weekly.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Once shoppers entered the store, things got crowded quickly.

Once shoppers entered the store, things got crowded quickly. play

Once shoppers entered the store, things got crowded quickly.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Most shoppers headed straight for the bakery.

Most shoppers headed straight for the bakery. play

Most shoppers headed straight for the bakery.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The bakery features a wide array of pastries, donuts, croissants, and breads made daily.

The bakery features a wide array of pastries, donuts, croissants, and breads made daily. play

The bakery features a wide array of pastries, donuts, croissants, and breads made daily.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


There's also a station near the bakery that offers food samples throughout the day.

There's also a station near the bakery that offers food samples throughout the day. play

There's also a station near the bakery that offers food samples throughout the day.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Other tasting stations are featured throughout the store.

Other tasting stations are featured throughout the store. play

Other tasting stations are featured throughout the store.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Overall, the store seems simple to shop, with only six aisles total.

Overall, the store seems simple to shop, with only six aisles total. play

Overall, the store seems simple to shop, with only six aisles total.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Proctor said this setup was chosen to make it as easy as possible for customers to quickly find what they need for a convenient shopping experience.

Proctor said this setup was chosen to make it as easy as possible for customers to quickly find what they need for a convenient shopping experience. play

Proctor said this setup was chosen to make it as easy as possible for customers to quickly find what they need for a convenient shopping experience.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


There's an assortment of organic and gluten-free items around the store, including organic fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and packaged food items.

There's an assortment of organic and gluten-free items around the store, including organic fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and packaged food items. play

There's an assortment of organic and gluten-free items around the store, including organic fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and packaged food items.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


There's no deli, but we found a wide selection of sliced packaged meats.

There's no deli, but we found a wide selection of sliced packaged meats. play

There's no deli, but we found a wide selection of sliced packaged meats.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Proctor highlighted the fact that all Lidl's beef products are black Angus. The store has a wide selection of meats never treated with antibiotics.

Proctor highlighted the fact that all Lidl's beef products are black Angus. The store has a wide selection of meats never treated with antibiotics. play

Proctor highlighted the fact that all Lidl's beef products are black Angus. The store has a wide selection of meats never treated with antibiotics.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The dairy section is located at the back of the store.

The dairy section is located at the back of the store. play

The dairy section is located at the back of the store.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Since the stores are only 20,000 square feet, it only takes about 30 seconds to reach the back of the store from the entrance.

Since the stores are only 20,000 square feet, it only takes about 30 seconds to reach the back of the store from the entrance. play

Since the stores are only 20,000 square feet, it only takes about 30 seconds to reach the back of the store from the entrance.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


While Lidl is just now entering the US market, it has a massive presence in Europe, with more than 10,000 stores in 27 European countries.

While Lidl is just now entering the US market, it has a massive presence in Europe, with more than 10,000 stores in 27 European countries. play

While Lidl is just now entering the US market, it has a massive presence in Europe, with more than 10,000 stores in 27 European countries.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Overseas, Lidl is best known for its rock-bottom prices, and it's most closely associated with the discount grocer Aldi, which is also based in Germany.

Overseas, Lidl is best known for its rock-bottom prices, and it's most closely associated with the discount grocer Aldi, which is also based in Germany. play

Overseas, Lidl is best known for its rock-bottom prices, and it's most closely associated with the discount grocer Aldi, which is also based in Germany.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl says it matches competitors' prices for branded products, and that its private-label items are up to 50% cheaper than its rivals.

Lidl says it matches competitors' prices for branded products, and that its private-label items are up to 50% cheaper than its rivals. play

Lidl says it matches competitors' prices for branded products, and that its private-label items are up to 50% cheaper than its rivals.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


About 90% of the products in the store are private label.

About 90% of the products in the store are private label. play

About 90% of the products in the store are private label.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


But Lidl also offers branded products like Tide detergent and Bounty paper towels.

But Lidl also offers branded products like Tide detergent and Bounty paper towels. play

But Lidl also offers branded products like Tide detergent and Bounty paper towels.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl's and Aldi's competitive prices have upended the grocery market in the UK over the last several years, sending some of the biggest supermarket chains into a crippling price war from which some are still struggling to recover.

Lidl's and Aldi's competitive prices have upended the grocery market in the UK over the last several years, sending some of the biggest supermarket chains into a crippling price war from which some are still struggling to recover. play

Lidl's and Aldi's competitive prices have upended the grocery market in the UK over the last several years, sending some of the biggest supermarket chains into a crippling price war from which some are still struggling to recover.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Grocery industry analysts are predicting a similar price competition in the US as Lidl and Aldi expand across the country.

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(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


In the middle of the store, Lidl has a section devoted to "surprises" — a range of non-food products like pressure washers, duffle bags, workout equipment, clothing, and more.

In the middle of the store, Lidl has a section devoted to "surprises" — a range of non-food products like pressure washers, duffle bags, workout equipment, clothing, and more. play

In the middle of the store, Lidl has a section devoted to "surprises" — a range of non-food products like pressure washers, duffle bags, workout equipment, clothing, and more.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The items featured in this section will be constantly changing.

The items featured in this section will be constantly changing. play

The items featured in this section will be constantly changing.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Later this year, the section will feature a new apparel line designed by fashion icon Heidi Klum.

Later this year, the section will feature a new apparel line designed by fashion icon Heidi Klum. play

Later this year, the section will feature a new apparel line designed by fashion icon Heidi Klum.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Like Aldi, Lidl keeps prices low by limiting inventory to a lean selection of items, whereas traditional supermarkets tend to carry several brands of a single product.

Like Aldi, Lidl keeps prices low by limiting inventory to a lean selection of items, whereas traditional supermarkets tend to carry several brands of a single product. play

Like Aldi, Lidl keeps prices low by limiting inventory to a lean selection of items, whereas traditional supermarkets tend to carry several brands of a single product.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl's new US stores have some significant differences than its stores in Europe. For example, Lidl US has a cooler section for beers and wines.

Lidl's new US stores have some significant differences than its stores in Europe. For example, Lidl US has a cooler section for beers and wines. play

Lidl's new US stores have some significant differences than its stores in Europe. For example, Lidl US has a cooler section for beers and wines.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Some of the beers are clearly made to resemble well-known brands in the US, like Blue Moon.

Some of the beers are clearly made to resemble well-known brands in the US, like Blue Moon. play

Some of the beers are clearly made to resemble well-known brands in the US, like Blue Moon.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl's US stores are also much bigger than its European stores.

Lidl's US stores are also much bigger than its European stores. play

Lidl's US stores are also much bigger than its European stores.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


And they have a different system for shopping carts. In Europe, Lidl requires shoppers to deposit a quarter to use a shopping basket. Shoppers get a quarter back when they return the basket.

And they have a different system for shopping carts. In Europe, Lidl requires shoppers to deposit a quarter to use a shopping basket. Shoppers get a quarter back when they return the basket. play

And they have a different system for shopping carts. In Europe, Lidl requires shoppers to deposit a quarter to use a shopping basket. Shoppers get a quarter back when they return the basket.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The system helps prevent carts from ending up abandoned in store parking lots. But in focus groups, Lidl discovered that US shoppers don't like that system. So no quarters are required for shopping carts at its US stores.

The system helps prevent carts from ending up abandoned in store parking lots. But in focus groups, Lidl discovered that US shoppers don't like that system. So no quarters are required for shopping carts at its US stores. play

The system helps prevent carts from ending up abandoned in store parking lots. But in focus groups, Lidl discovered that US shoppers don't like that system. So no quarters are required for shopping carts at its US stores.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl prides itself on its massive wine section, which has a color-coded chart to help people select spirits that suit their tastes.

Lidl prides itself on its massive wine section, which has a color-coded chart to help people select spirits that suit their tastes. play

Lidl prides itself on its massive wine section, which has a color-coded chart to help people select spirits that suit their tastes.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


The store carries about 120 varieties of wine, and more than 100 are private label.

The store carries about 120 varieties of wine, and more than 100 are private label. play

The store carries about 120 varieties of wine, and more than 100 are private label.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl displays most of its products in the packaging they were shipped in. This method reduces costs and helps employees save time stocking shelves.

Lidl displays most of its products in the packaging they were shipped in. This method reduces costs and helps employees save time stocking shelves. play

Lidl displays most of its products in the packaging they were shipped in. This method reduces costs and helps employees save time stocking shelves.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


Lidl also saves money by requiring customers to bring shopping bags and bag their groceries.

Lidl also saves money by requiring customers to bring shopping bags and bag their groceries. play

Lidl also saves money by requiring customers to bring shopping bags and bag their groceries.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


There are computers that print labels throughout the store for items that shoppers select and weigh themselves.

There are computers that print labels throughout the store for items that shoppers select and weigh themselves. play

There are computers that print labels throughout the store for items that shoppers select and weigh themselves.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


This saves time at the checkout.

This saves time at the checkout. play

This saves time at the checkout.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)


About an hour after opening, there was still a long line of customers waiting to enter the store.

About an hour after opening, there was still a long line of customers waiting to enter the store. play

About an hour after opening, there was still a long line of customers waiting to enter the store.

(Business Insider/Hayley Peterson)