Lidl enjoys large sales jump as Northern Ireland growth is strongest in the UK
Sales at German discount supermarket Lidl in the province rocketed 20% in the past year — far outstripping its percentage sales growth in the rest of the UK, latest figures show.
According to Kantar Worldpanel, the no-frills supermarket - famed for bargains on luxury items like lobster - now has a market share of 4.8% in the province.
And Lidl responded to Northern Ireland's growing appetite for its offerings by moving to an expanded store in east Belfast's Connswater Centre. It also plans to open up to 15 new stores on top of its existing 38 here over the next few years.
While its slice of the market is small compared with established big-hitters Tesco and Sainsbury's, its sales did climb one-fifth in the 52 weeks to May 24.
In comparison, Lidl sales climbed by just 8.8% in the rest of the UK over the same period.
However, Lidl has a close competitor in its discount niche in the rest of the UK in the form of fellow German supermarket Aldi - which has yet to open any stores in Northern Ireland.
Of the other supermarkets in the year to May 24, Tesco Northern Ireland sales were down 1.7%, while next-biggest operator Sainsbury's saw revenues drop 1.2%. But bucking the trend among the big supermarkets, Asda saw growth of 2.9% in its Northern Ireland sales. No one from either Asda or Lidl was available for comment on their respective growth.
Lidl's sales growth far outstrips any rivals - with the next biggest market share increase of 6.9% coming from the 'other multiples' category.
And Dr Karise Hutchinson, head of Ulster University's department of business and enterprise, said she believed the success of Lidl in Northern Ireland was more than a flash in the pan.
"I think this growth by Lidl is sustainable and we will see it continue. They have developed a consumer-centric model tapping into our preference for locally sourced food and value for money - competing with Asda on this front."
The latest figures come as Sainsbury's posted its sixth straight quarter of falling sales in the UK as supermarket price war shows little sign of easing.
The chain reported same-store sales excluding fuel down a worse-than-expected 2.1% in the 12 weeks to June 6, which comes on top of a 1.9% drop in the previous three months.
Sainsbury's remains under pressure from falling UK food prices and as the big four grocers engage in fierce competition amid a scramble for market share, which is being eaten away by discounters Aldi and Lidl.
Sainsbury's has 13 stores in Northern Ireland. Its chief executive Mike Coupe, who took over from long-standing predecessor Justin King last July, unveiled a plan to fight back against the discounters in November which included price cuts to 1,100 items and improvements in quality to 3,000 own-brand products.
Mr Coupe said: "Trading conditions are still being impacted by strong levels of food deflation and a highly competitive pricing backdrop."