I cannot think of a more perfect business to have been built in the ashes of that dreadful Red Oak Diner. Despite months of protests and multiple appearances from a gigantic inflatable rat, consumers pour into Lidl, Hazlet’s new supermarket, in droves. As a mild fan of Aldi and regular disgruntled shopper at Shop Rite, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Would Lidl be worth it, or serve as just another novelty once the hype died down?
I had my first visit there two weeks ago and again this past weekend. It needed a second go-around for me to take it all in. When you first walk in, you are confronted with a semi-large bakery section for fresh-baked good ranging from breads and rolls to donuts and pastries. For some of the larger loaves, the price may be $1.19 or $.79 if you buy two. There are several deals like that as you walk around. Lidl by no means has the quantity of Shop Rite, but they have just enough of everything that you could do your regular shopping here as opposed to just stopping in for a few loose items. The prices will catch your eye. Some are the same as other local supermarkets. Others are maybe a dime or two cheaper. But a majority will be seriously lower in price.
Naan in Shop Rite is $3.99 while it is $1.79 in Lidl. To digress from the main point of this post and open your eyes about the price gouging of Shop Rite, take in this comparison from Lidl’s competitor Aldi: Cafe Bustello sells for $6.99 in Shop Rite as opposed to $2.88 in Aldi. That’s some serious cash as far as groceries are concerned, especially when items add up on your shopping list. Similar experiences can be found at Lidl. Meats are lower (Lidl had a beautiful Black Angus ribeye recently for under $8 whilst Shop Rite would eclipse $10 for the same cut) as is produce. While Shop Rite is currently getting $4.99 a pound for asparagus, Lidl comes in at $2.99. Yams can be compared $1.29 lb vs. $.49 lb. Boxes of cereal which range between $3-4 at Shop Rite are most often under $2 at Lidl. Shop Rite’s store-brand stick butter is $3.99 while Lidl’s is $2.39. Hell, even Target offers their brand of salted and unsalted stick butters for $2.49.
I could go on and on with comparisons, but you can see for yourself with a visit. Lidl carries mainly their own brand or lesser known ones with a few major names sprinkled in-between. They also boast a rather large cultural selection spread out between the packaged and frozen goods sections. All of their frozen Indian food dinners are under $4, while Shop Rite’s routinely pass $5 and sometimes near $6.
Even after they opened, a sprinkling of lifeless protesters walked the sidewalk in the foreground carrying signs reading, “Shame!” It was humorous to see people drive past them by the hundred, with many making turns into Lidl’s parking lot to do their shopping. How quickly the area moved on from that whole “Monster Power Lines” insanity to go after Lidl for not having a union. I will not turn this post into a political grandstand, but I must say the workers in Lidl look much more pleasant than other stores. I suppose that depends on the day in this world we live in, but that has been my experience so far. Shop Rite, for the wonderful selection they have, can be incredibly overpriced. They treat their workers like numbers in a factory. Lidl, at least, appears to be treating their workers with at least a modicum of respect and paying a much higher wage than other stores which are unionized.
Will Lidl change the way we shop with a more European-style model? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it will just take a while. Once people get out of their comfort zone and start checking the place out, I imagine it would be hard to not become a regular. I, for one, do not mind embracing a different kind of shopping if it is going to save me money, even if that means bringing my own bags or buying paper ones for $.07 each. Each time I went there, I left with a shopping cart full of groceries and spent less than $60 each time. Both instances I remarked, in my head, “That’d be over $100 in Shop Rite.” Give it a chance.