Lidl 4

The exterior of a Lidl store in Italy.

Last year, when Lidl unveiled how it would open stores in the U.S., the German grocery chain’s approach boiled down to two words:

Floor it.

But now, its strategy in the Lancaster area and elsewhere on the East Coast might be morphing into a three-word concept:

Tap the brakes.

The no-frills, deep-discount grocer has withdrawn its plan to build a Lincoln Highway East store in East Lampeter Township, without explanation.

However, the company is continuing to seek approval from East Hempfield Township to build an identical store on Columbia Avenue.

Lidl spokesman Will Harwood on Monday declined to comment on either site.

The action here follows news in September that Lidl has replaced the German executive who oversees its U.S. operations.

It also comes after The Wall Street Journal and Progressive Grocer reported in October that Lidl’s first wave of stores, which opened in June, is having a hard time retaining the customers it initially attracted.

That cool reception might be affecting the pace of Lidl’s U.S. store rollout, initially set for up to 100 stores by summer 2018, according to other published reports.

The Atlanta Business Journal reported last month that Lidl is “dramatically scaling back” the number of stores it intends to develop in Georgia.

The Triad Business Journal, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, reported that construction of Lidl stores in that market had slowed.

However, a Lidl spokeswoman told The Covington (Georgia) News that the company is sticking by that initial timetable for up to 100 stores.

Asked to respond to reports that Lidl is reducing or slowing its rollout of stores, Harwood said Monday:

“We are very happy with our rollout and the response to our stores to date, and we look forward to opening more.”

Harwood noted that Lidl has opened 41 stores to date, is opening four more on Thursday and two others on Nov. 30.

LNP reported in January that Lidl wanted to build a 36,000-square-foot store at 2331 Lincoln Highway E., where a Rodeway Inn and vacant Italian Villa East restaurant/Comedy Club building stand.

A land development plan for the project could have won conditional approval from East Lampeter Township supervisors on Monday, said manager Ralph Hutchison.

Lidl informed the township of its withdrawal via a letter dated Nov. 6. The letter provided no reason for the action.

LNP reported in September that Lidl also wants to build a 36,000-square-foot store on the northeast corner of Columbia Avenue and Good Drive, opposite a CVS.

A land development plan for the project is tentatively scheduled to go before the East Hempfield Township Planning Commission for approval on Dec. 13, said Jon Beck, the township’s director of development services. The township supervisors will have final say.

A store that size would cost at least $5 million to develop, according to industry sources, and employ about 30 to 35 people.

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