Supermarket Lidl has revealed its attempts to dominate large swathes of UK high streets will continue at pace with the creation of 4,000 new jobs over the next three years.
Bosses said they expect to reach their target of having 1,000 stores by 2023 and set a new ambition for 1,100 sites by 2025.
The move comes as the grocer published its accounts for the year to end of February at Companies House, showing how it benefitted during the pandemic from is position as an “essential” retailer.
Sales jumped 12% to £7.7 billion and pre-tax profits hit £9.8 million after a £25.2 million loss a year earlier, according to the accounts.
Lidl is privately owned, meaning it does not need to publish more up-to-date sales data unlike its stock market-listed rivals.
Alongside the numbers, bosses said they opened 55 stores during the first year of the pandemic and spent £17.5 million on boosting staff pay, including £8 million on hourly wage hikes and £9.5 million on bonuses during the Covid-19 crisis.
Profits may have been higher, although Lidl – along with most of its rivals – agreed to repay more than £100 million in business rates savings when Chancellor Rishi Sunak scrapped the tax to support the high street.
Several “essential” retailers made the repayments due to spikes in sales as they remained open while other stores were closed.
Lidl GB chief executive Christian Hartnagel said: “We delivered an impressive trading performance in the period which was supported by our continued investment in new and existing stores, product innovation and our people.
“All of this contributed to growth in our revenue and profits and positions us well for further growth in the years to come.”
The grocer also pointed out that customers are becoming far more environmentally conscious, which could pose a risk for Lidl if it does not tackle concerns around excess packaging and net-zero supply chains.
It said the supermarket will reduce plastic in its own-brand packaging by 40% by 2025 and cut the total amount of own-label packaging by 25% in the same year.
Despite the strong sales during the financial year, bosses also revealed Brexit has had a detrimental impact on the business.
The accounts state since the end of the transition period at the end of 2020 there has been an increase in administration for importing and exporting and warned customs agents are being stretched, which is limiting their ability to process goods more efficiently.
Lidl added it had suffered from delays at the UK border due to missing Government guidelines for some shipping lines, and seen costs rise on an item-by-item and shipment-by-shipment basis due to customs duties and import costs.
Mr Hartnagel told the PA news agency the retailer has witnessed inflationary pressures but said it will invest money into “keeping prices low” for customers.
“We are feeling inflation but if anything our customers are feeling it more and they rely on discounters like us to provide good value,” he said.
“Lidl will do everything we can to keep prices low and we will therefore be looking at how we can address any cost rises.”
The boss also stressed that the company “is very well stocked” ahead of the key Christmas and hailed its staff for “working harder than ever before” to get it prepared amid supply chain challenges.