Business View: No longer the Lidl shops of horrors...
Figures published yesterday show the rate of inflation to have fallen to a four-year low of 2.1%, thanks to pressure easing on food prices.
The news from the Office of National Statistics came as research by Kantar Worldpanel showed that half of all households are continuing to pick up goods at discount grocery chains like Aldi and Lidl.
We now know that we can buy many items more cheaply in discounters, and the stigma which once clung to going 'downmarket' in our purchases has now been lifted.
The introduction of a charge for plastic bags means that you don't have to flaunt your Lidl shopper but can instead put your purchases in the Marks & Spencer bag you just happen to carry with you.
Chris Longbottom, the director of Kantar Worldpanel, said Aldi – which has yet to make it to Northern Ireland – and Lidl had successfully broadened their customer base.
Aldi could now claim 4% of the market, after three years of steady weekly increases, while Lidl is stable at its peak market share of 3.1%.
Both firms' growth comes, inevitably, at the expense of market leaders Tesco and Sainsbury's, which both recorded slight falls of under 1%.
Lidl's UK managing director Ronny Gottschlich described new Lidl customers as 'Maidstone Mums' – or should that be 'Magherafelt Mums' in Northern Ireland – who had seen the light after being embarrassed to be seen in Lidl stores.
He said: "I think that people's perception in the past, and this is something that is definitely changing, is there must be something wrong with the quality of what those people at Lidl offer because they have such reasonable pricing in their stores."
But disproving the theory that we've all gone bargain bananas, high-end supermarket Waitrose experienced 6.7% growth. Numerous column inches have been devoted to the fact that Waitrose has not yet opened up in Northern Ireland – probably all they have in common with Aldi.