Upscale chains Wegmans and Whole Foods aren’t the only supermarket operators that see Lancaster County as the land of opportunity.
The same holds true for a chain at the other end of the supermarket spectrum — Aldi, the German-based discounter best known for its low prices and no-frills approach.
The new location in the northern suburbs will be more than four times larger and more accessible. It will open in May, according to employees.
Aldi also is developing a store in Lime Spring Square off Rohrerstown Road, opposite the Stauffers of Kissel Hill garden and home decor center.
This location will give Aldi its first presence in the western suburbs. It will open in August or September, employees say.
Aldi declined to provide much information to LNP about its expansion plan for the Lancaster area. In a statement issued through a spokesman, Aldi Vice President Bob Grammer said only:
“We are excited to share Aldi will open two stores in Lancaster this year. We will be in touch with more specific details closer to the opening dates.”
The spokesman declined to specify the locations.
However, township building permits disclosed the addresses. The number of jobs to be created by the new stores was not available, but other Aldi locations that size employ about 15 to 20 people.
Different but same
When Aldi, Wegmans and Whole Foods studied Lancaster County, they reached the same conclusion despite their wildly different styles of operating.
Wegmans has a 120,000-square-foot store with both staples and gourmet items, plus prepared foods, in a classy presentation. Whole Foods, in 40,000 square feet, offers natural and organic items as well as prepared foods.
Aldi, on the other hand, has been here since 2008. It has captured a mere 1 percent, or $13.8 million, of the local market annually, based on a trade publication’s research. But Aldi too believes it can do better.
Its new stores are about half the size of a Whole Foods, a sixth the size of Wegmans. Its presentation is bare bones. Products are displayed in their shipping cartons. Its stores lack the size to offer the depth or breadth of traditional supermarkets.
But its low prices, savvy mix of products, high-quality private brands and well-organized stores have made it a winner, one expert says.
“I think Aldi is best in class (among discounters),” said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food Trade News, which produces an annual report on the industry here and across the region.
“In a retail field that’s overstored, very diversified and very logjammed, Aldi has created a niche and a following, and they’ve been able to grow market share,” he said.
Trade publication Supermarket News agrees that Aldi is formidable; the publication named Aldi its Retailer of the Year in October.
Aldi’s expansion here -- part of a national push to grow its U.S. network from 1,600 stores to 2,500 stores by year-end 2022 while remodeling 1,300 existing stores -- follows two years of seismic change to traditional supermarkets in the county.
While the chains were adjusting their physical footprints, their services were evolving too. Some Giant and Weis locations added beer and wine cafes, and Giant, Weis and Stauffers introduced home-delivery options.
In contrast, Aldi’s corner of the food-retailing business has been comparatively quiet over the past two years. Most notably, another German discounter, Lidl, announced plans for two stores here, then pared it to one, on Columbia Avenue. Construction has yet to begin.
Aldi came to Lancaster by opening a 5,000-square-foot store at the Golden Triangle, 1302 Lititz Pike. The new store will be 1.5 miles away at 1884 Fruitville Pike, next to At Home, and measure 24,000 square feet, according to Manheim Township records. The cost to convert the former Kmart space is $900,000 (excluding equipment).
The 2210 Embassy Drive store in Lime Spring Square, behind the Starbucks and Firehouse Subs building, will measure 22,000 square feet, according to East Hempfield Township records. The cost to construct the building is $2 million (excluding equipment).
--Staff Writer Chad Umble contributed to this story.