Speculation mounts over Lidl’s online plans

Speculation is mounting over UK discounter’s Lidl’s online ambitions – which db understands will include wine – after it started to advertise for a digital project manager to head up the online platform.

(Photo: Wiki)

Since Lidl’s UK BWS team confirmed to db in 2015 that it had not ruled out launching an online wine shop, the retailer has consistently denied being on the brink of venturing into ecommerce, saying it was constantly monitoring business activity that could be of “potential interest to our customers”. However in June The Grocer magazine reported the retailer was ‘actively exploring’ launching online’, shortly after the digital team were seen by db at the London Wine Fair.

The retailer has now advertised a role, which is described on the discounter’s website as  “instrumental in helping to deliver a new online platform with the aim of acquiring new customers and driving online sales”, reporting to the Digital Director and the Head of Ecommerce. Five months ago, the retailer advertised for several ecommerce jobs, including an operations manager responsible for the supply chain and logistics element of its ecommerce operations as well as an ecommerce project manager.

The recruitment drive has led to speculation over the discounter’s ambition, with The Sun suggesting the “new online platform” could see the retailer launch an app which will let you shop at the store using your phone, or explored the possibility of selling wine direct to customers via its Facebook “winebot” service Margot, which was launched in January 2018 to help shoppers pick wines to drink.

However, although the jobs advertisements said it was “the start of a new chapter for Lidl,” and that “as a new function within the business, there will be a lot of unknowns and a lot to learn”, the retailer is remaining tight-lipped about its plans. So far it has not confirmed any timescale or clarified what the online offer will entail, beyond confirming its comments back in June that that “ecommerce is something we’re exploring.”

A spokesman told the Daily Mail, “We will provide further information if and when we have any developments to announce.”

The move follows the creation of a holding company last year called Lidl Digital Logistics in the United Kingdom, which was revealed in May 2018 by the Daily Mail’s This is Money.

Last month Lidl reached a record high market share, after seeing sales of 9.2% in the 12 weeks to 8 September 2019, giving it a 6% share of the market for the first time, boosted by the 618,000 new shoppers that visited its stores.

According to the IWSR, online wine sales in the UK rose to £844k last year and accounted for around 61% of the total online alcohol market of £1.86 million (nearly £1.4 million) in 2018. Wine was considerably ahead of the curve compared to beer and spirits, Humphrey Serjeantson, IWSR’s Western Europe research director told db, due to a mixture of factors including the ability to provide a broader range online than in bricks and mortar, the growing familiarity and trust in online wine buying, and the fact that wine lends itself well to the databases that form the backbone of most wine ecommerce sites.

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