The clever ways Lidl is helping shoppers save money

Lidl’s ingenious cost saving measures are helping it pass on savings to customers.

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Helena Young
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Today, supermarket chain Lidl revealed it has turned half the lights off at some UK stores, in order to double down on its efforts to cut its overheads, and ultimately help customers save money in the cost of living crisis.

Rising inflation, and the subsequent spike in supply chain costs, mean grocers are struggling to keep prices down for consumers. Some brands have been better at it than others, however. Last month, Tesco caused ire when it announced pre-tax profits of £2.3bn.

Lidl is known for its innovative solutions to shield customers from price rises. Here are five measures the brand has introduced to trim its own costs, and in turn save customers money during the weekly shop.

1. Turning the lights off

We’ve all been feeling the pinch of rising energy bills, and large retail brands like Lidl are no exception. The chain needs to keep heavy industrial equipment like fridges and freezers running all day, which has naturally added a few zeroes to their gas and electricity invoices.

As first reported by the BBC, Lidl has responded to the cash crunch by dimming half the lights in its stores across the island of Ireland, to drastically reduce its energy usage.

JP Scally, Chief Executive of Lidl Ireland, told the BBC, “we’ve turned off half the lights in our stores over the past year and a half just to try and reduce electricity bills, which allows us to really shield customers from some of those price increases,” he said.

2. Switching to electronic price tags

One change you might not have noticed at Lidl stores is the switch to electronically-powered price tags from paper print-outs. It’s a small tweak, but it promises big savings for Lidl.

As well as reducing the amount spent on paper and ink, Lidl can phase out its printers in the long run. Lidl has said the move will help to save an estimated 206 tonnes of carbon a year.

Plus, the poor soul who previously had to spend hours a day manually checking labels, and printing out updated price stickers, is now freed to focus on customer service.

3. Limited ranges

Everyone knows about Lidl’s mad middle aisle that’s filled with everything from fish food to inflatable slides. This is not just the vision of a rogue store manager, however.

Using data algorithms, Lidl adopts a lean approach to match its discount products to purchasing patterns. This way, it can cater directly to customer needs and retail trends, rather than overloading shoppers (and its backroom inventory) with irrelevant impulse buys.

The result is a faster, more efficient shopping route through stores that reduces browsing time and, indirectly, reduces the number of in-store tour guides that Lidl needs to employ.

4. Wholesale-style decor

Lidl’s shelves aren’t pretty. Most of its food and drink items are displayed in the same boxes they were stored in at the warehouse. But what’s mildly displeasing to the eye has also been one of Lidl’s biggest cost savers.

This wholesale-style of decor solves one of the most time-consuming tasks for floor staff: shelf stocking. Replenishing tins of beans is much easier when you’re simply swapping one box for another. And again, this frees up shop assistants to concentrate on the customer.

Yes, if they want more experiential retail, there is a danger that shoppers might seek out more aesthetic stores, like Whole Foods. But Lidl has made its name as a discount retailer for a reason. It knows the search for a good deal means it will almost always win that battle.

5. Paying staff more

Odd as it sounds, Lidl’s higher wages mean it’s able to pass further savings onto customers. Supermarket pay has been a race to the finish this year. All the big retail names including Aldi, Asda, and Sainsbury’s, attempted to one-up staff earnings ahead of the new National Living Wage, which came into force this April.

Lidl has kept a close eye on the market rate. So far, it has raised employee pay three times this year to ensure it is staying competitive. That’s because at Lidl, workers aren’t employed in specific roles, like door greeter or till workers.

Instead, they are skilled all-rounders, who can jump to clean up a spill or help out in the stockroom at a moment’s notice. This allows the retail chain to operate with a smaller, yet more productive, workforce; keeping wages up, but overall payroll costs down.

Tesco profits, but Lidl bags the customers

Lidl’s emphasis on saving customers money means it hasn’t pulled ahead of competitors like Tesco when it comes to profits. But the strategy is helping it win the PR battle.

By making small tweaks to its operational model, Lidl has been able to prioritise savings for shoppers; a move that will bear long-term fruit in the form of bolstered customer loyalty.

In February, Lidl GB renewed its commitment to that goal. Richard Bourns, Chief Commercial Officer at Lidl GB, said: “While other supermarkets may try and match us with price promises and loyalty schemes, we know more and more customers are coming through our doors and staying thanks to our unbeatable offering.”

Clearly, the approach is working. Earlier this month, data firm Kantar revealed that Lidl has achieved a record market share of 9.1% in 2024 as a result of its customer-centric approach.

Meanwhile, Tesco has found itself in murkier waters after boss Ken Murphy was paid a record £10m CEO salary. The High Pay Centre, a business think tank, said the huge pay packet highlighted the “extreme disparity” between UK workers and the super-rich.

Still, as the above measures indicate, scale-up is not just about saving money, but also about reinvesting it. Small, savvy cuts to inventories and energy will boost cash reserves, which should then be spent on smart growth areas like staff salaries and new technology.

Naturally, a balance is required. But if firms consider what’s best for customers, not just their cash flow, the long-term benefits will blossom into healthier buyer relationships and profits.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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