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Lidl products and branch mangers are locally sourced

It comes as no great surprise that Lidl has announced such extensive expansion plans for more stores here in Northern Ireland.

Since they first set up store here in 1999, they have quietly and surreptitiously grown market share and, at the same time, have managed to convince Northern Ireland consumers that they offer a wide range of quality products at affordable prices.

However, that's not the whole story. Initially, the sceptics anticipated that it would rely on consumers from the lower socio-economic groupings who would be their principal customers.

How very wrong they were.

In fact, recent research evidence indicates that a growing, and sizeable, percentage of Lidl shoppers are from the higher-ranking AB socio-economic groupings.

But their success is not based on price alone. Lidl offers a constantly expanding range of products which are sourced here in Ireland.

This appeals to a wide range of consumers who are becoming increasingly concerned with food provenance and traceability.

They have also come to be regarded as a very rewarding employer to work for. Many past students from the Ulster University Business School are now gainfully employed by Lidl and a large number of their store managers are past students of mine.

They are not only an employer who provides discriminating and discerning consumers with a locally-sourced food product offering at the keenest prices, but also they also reward local, talented, educated graduates with jobs and extremely attractive salary packages.

Sainsbury's promised to do this almost 20 years ago but I'm still not hearing enough local accents in senior management roles when I visit their stores.

Donald McFetridge is a retail analyst at the University of Ulster

Belfast Telegraph