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Lidl grocery store one step closer to coming to Gainesville
Although new in U.S., German grocer is big worldwide
The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board gave its OK to a Lidl grocery store on Dawsonville Highway. Gainesville City Council will have final say on whether the project is approved. - photo by Clark Leonard

A local attorney representing a relatively new grocer in the United States that wants to open a 36,000-square-foot store on busy Dawsonville Highway offered a few more details about the German chain looking to become the new kid on the block.

Tyler Smith told members at a Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board meeting Tuesday that although not many people in the United States know about Lidl, the chain has been thriving in Europe since the 1930s and is now the fifth-largest retailer in the world.

“They are new to the United States, but they are not new at all to the world market and the grocery industry,” said Smith, of the Smith, Gilliam, Williams and Miles law firm in Gainesville. “It is in 26 countries, 10,000 stores, 315,000 employees.”

The planning board unanimously accepted planning staff’s recommendation to give its OK to the zoning change of almost 7 acres to general business classification. Gainesville City Council will have final say on whether the project is approved.

The planning board’s positive recommendation was made with six standard conditions to comply with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Despite the existence of a traffic study showing that the site of the proposed grocery store, 1010 Dawsonville Highway, southeast of Beechwood Boulevard, is already beset with heavy traffic during peak hours even without the supermarket there, no one spoke against the project.

Smith said the United States is a new market for Lidl, which is owned by the Schwartz Group — a private, family-owned German retail group with annual revenues in excess of $100 billion. He said Lidl opened 21 stores along the East Coast this year and is opening three distribution centers, including one planned for Cartersville.

“What it typically sells are selective items, whether that be produce, wines, certain meats, those kinds of things,” Smith added. “It produces the volume that picks out select items that it can deliver to its customers at an advantageous price.”

Industry analysts say Lidl is set to compete for a market share staked out by its German counterpart Aldi, which has a store near the proposed Lidl location on Dawsonville Highway. The two chains follow a similar no-frills business model in which shoppers bag their own groceries and the stores require a quarter for a buggy so that customers return the cart to reclaim their quarter.

Lidl plans to open an additional 80 stores between New Jersey and Atlanta by the summer of 2018, according to