DISCOUNT grocer Lidl today unveiled plans to create 500 jobs this year amid a multi-million pound investment in its Scottish store estate and the relocation of its West Lothian warehouse to a larger site.
The firm, which along with fellow German retailer Aldi has been putting the squeeze on Britain’s biggest supermarkets, said the proposed facility in Armadale would be more than double the size of its existing regional distribution centre in Livingston, which already employs more than 300 people.
A spokesman told The Scotsman that all of the staff at the 28,000 square-metre Livingston site will be transferred to the new facility, which is expected to be up and running by the end of next year. The proposed centre, boasting a total warehouse area of more than 71,000 sq-m, will have a workforce of about 400.
The rest of the jobs being created will be spread across the firm’s growing store estate and the permanent positions will comprise a range of full- and part-time posts.
Iain Hunter, manager of the Livingston distribution centre, said: “The rise in customer numbers and increase in sales means we are operating an even busier warehouse than ever before.
“We are now shipping more stock every day to our store network across Scotland and we now require a new, larger warehouse to cope with the demand and anticipated future growth.”
The rapid growth of Lidl and Aldi has come at the expense of Britain’s biggest supermarkets, which have seen their market shares eroded by the cut-price duo. Market leader Tesco, suffering the effects of an accounting scandal, recently cancelled plans to build eight supermarkets in Scotland and saw its sales fall 1.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to 4 January.
Industry figures from researcher Kantar Worldpanel showed rivals Asda and Morrisons both suffered a 1.6 per cent decline in takings during the period, marking the worst performances among the “big four” chains. Morrisons last week said it would be closing ten loss-making stores this year, putting more than 400 jobs at risk. The Bradford-based retailer later confirmed none of the affected branches would be north of the Border, where it employs 15,500 people across 62 outlets.
Sainsbury’s has also unveiled plans to axe about 500 jobs as part of a cost-cutting exercise as it brings together its supermarket and convenience store businesses. Sales at the chain dipped 0.7 per cent in the 12 weeks to 4 January, according to Kantar’s figures.
In comparison, takings at Aldi surged 22.6 per cent on the same period a year earlier as cash-strapped consumers deserted the big four chains in search of bargains. It now has a 4.8 per cent slice of the UK’s grocery market, up from 4 per cent a year ago.
Lidl saw its share of the sector rise from 3.1 to 3.5 per cent over the same period, after enjoying a 15.1 per cent jump in sales in the past three months.
The chain, which launched its first stores in Germany in the 1970s, established a Scottish presence in 1994 with branches in Perth and Pollokshaws, Glasgow. Its 90th store in the country was opened by former First Minister Alex Salmond in Rutherglen last year.
The company is investing an eight-figure sum in its expansion, which will see two Edinburgh stores – on Easter Road and Logie Green Road – open in the autumn. That will take the group’s presence in Edinburgh and the Lothians to 17 branches, and the retailer said further sites are under negotiation.
In addition, the chain is rolling out four “new generation” branches at existing sites in Aberdeen, Dundee, Livingston and Whitburn, and said its Oban store will be relocated later this year.
Lidl’s managing director in Scotland, Ross Millar, said: “People all over the country are realising they can make huge savings on their weekly grocery shop with us, without compromising on quality. The opening of our 90th store in Scotland marked our 20th year of operating here and, along with our planned investment over the next 12 months, signifies our commitment to Scotland and the communities which we are proud to serve.”