Like a taciturn teenager, it used to be a struggle to get two words out of its ultra-secretive executive. Not any more. Now turned 20, Lidl has developed into a charming and compelling operator - as exemplified by a lavish four-course dinner it laid on for 144 journalists and media owners (including Daily Express and Health Lottery boss Richard Desmond) this week at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
“In a major charm offensive this week, Lidl’s lavish dinner for the media at the V&A was a real statement of intent”
Adam Leyland, Editor
UK MD Ronny Gottschlich was positively gushing as he explained to the audience why Lidl was doing so well (sales will increase from £3.3bn to £4bn this year alone), its contribution to the British economy (in terms of jobs, UK exports, and UK sourcing commitments - a few weeks ago it even disclosed its tax bill), as well as future plans (an extra 5,000 jobs on top of 2,500 announced in June).
If a gag about towels by the pool was well received, and showed Gottschlich (and Germans) could be self-deprecating, there were occasions when the same smug, slightly guilty looking smile emerged as when he mentioned Germany’s recent success at the World Cup.
So it was reassuring when the AV failed to show the last two of the four ads it was unveiling in its new £20m ad campaign - proving that even as it appears Lidl, and its German discounter rival Aldi, can do no wrong, it is human after all.
As a statement of intent, however, the dinner was incredibly impressive. The venue was not only stunning, it was cleverly chosen to symbolise the union of Britain and Germany that Lidl sought to get across. The award-winning Champagne flowed freely - as did the Grand Cru wines - reinforcing its ‘Lidl-class’ credentials/aspirations. And the food was not only tasty, it was all sourced from Lidl. They even presented us guests at the end with a cute, Lidl-branded bill (see below) to show how much - or rather, how little - the food had cost (£9.96 a head - not including wine).
Lidl might not have impressed Rachel Johnson in her catty, snobbish first (and last, she vowed) trip to Lidl for The Times. But right now she’s definitely in the minority.