Lidl and Aldi are making plans for more stores, while the 'big four' sacrifice their expansion plans for price cuts. A report for The Grocer Magazine found that the discounters are vastly outstripping the big four in their building plans, and at this rate Aldi could be the fifth largest grocer in the UK within a year.
The report, by Barbour ABI, looked into the number of planning applications in the pipeline for each of the retailers. Between them Aldi and Lidl have plans for 53 more store projects in 2015. Aldi is making the biggest strides in its expansion plans - with 33 new projects compared to Lidl's 20.
Meanwhile, the report found that Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda are only planning nine building projects between them - four for Asda, three for Tesco, and two for Sainsbury's: Morrisons isn't planning any. The figures include new stores as well as extensions, home delivery facilities and 'click and collect' areas.
In the case of Tesco, it has also had to announce the closure of 43 stores around the country - with the loss of 2,000 jobs - while Morrisons has said it will close ten of its stores.
The report added that it was a sign that the big four had "put the brakes on in the space race", so they could focus on cutting costs and improving their current infrastructure, while the discounters pressed the accelerator on building plans, to increase their reach into less well covered parts of the country.
The Daily Mail reported that Sainsbury's had questioned the figures, pointing out that it planned to open eight supermarkets in the next three years - as well as enlarging depots and opening dozens of convenience stores.
What this means
This report demonstrates the ambition that the discounters have for the UK. Last month Aldi overtook Waitrose to become the sixth largest grocer in the UK, and experts at Kantar Worldwide expect it to overtake the Co-op by this time next year, to be in fifth place.
However, it's worth pointing out that it needs to go much further to push into the top four. At the moment, Aldi has 5.3% of the market, and Lidl has 3.7%. They are a threat to the Co-op, which has 6%. However, they are a long way off Morrisons at 10.9%, Sainsbury's at 16.4%, Asda at 17.1% and Tesco at 29.4%.
Aldi is set to grow impressively: boosting its 560 UK stores to 1,000 by 2022. In the future, between the two discounters, they are estimated to be on course for 20% of the market (up from just under 10% at the moment). This could eventually put Aldi in fourth position. The question is whether it will peak there, or whether the pressure on the rest of the major supermarkets proves too much to bear.
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