Klaus Gehrig, chief executive of the Schwarz Group which owns Lidl,
told German local newspaper Heilbronner Stimme that preparations to
enter the United States were proceeding apace but the first stores
were only planned for 2018. His comments were confirmed by a Lidl
spokeswoman on Monday.
Lidl, which has expanded rapidly in Europe to some 9,000 stores in
26 countries, had been expected to open 100 stores in the United
States as early as next year, mainly in East Coast markets like its
German arch-rival Aldi.
Lidl is also planning to expand to Serbia and Lithuania, although it
has not set a timetable for entering those markets.
Lidl declined to comment on the reason for the delay, but German
media and analysts have speculated it could be linked to the
departure last month of the group's long-serving chairman.
The Schwarz Group said it had removed Karl-Heinz Holland, along with
Dawid Jaschok as head of buying and marketing, due to
"unbridgeable", but undisclosed, differences over future strategy.
They were replaced by former consultant Sven Seidel and Robin
Goudsblom, both aged 40.
Britain's Tesco <TSCO.L> last year pulled out of the United States
after a costly failure with a new low-price chain.
But Aldi, which first entered the United States in 1976, operates
nearly 1,300 stores there, mainly in the Midwest and the East Coast,
and recently announced a five-year plan to open another 650 stores
across the country.
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Germany's Manager Magazin reported that Lidl's Holland and Gehrig
clashed over how to handle a pricing dispute with Coca-Cola and when
Holland challenged a decision by Gehrig to remove Jaschok.
Based in Neckarsulm in southern Germany, Lidl is owned by Germany's
third-richest man, Dieter Schwarz, son of the company's founder
Josef Schwarz. Gehrig took over as group chief executive from Dieter
Schwarz in 2004.
The Schwarz Group, which also owns the Kaufland hypermarket chain,
saw its turnover rise over 9 percent to 74 billion euros ($102
billion) in the 2013/14 year, making it Europe's third-biggest
retailer behind Carrefour <CARR.PA> and Tesco.
($1 = 0.7227
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by Ruth Pitchford)
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