Lidl recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Cyprus. Andrew Rosenbaum spoke to general manager Spyros Kondylis about how the German company started up and grew so rapidly here
Why did Lidl decide to come to Cyprus 10 years ago? What was the rationalisation behind this decision? Tell us some of the main reasons.
Cyprus is a country with a stable economy and a good infrastructure, and it has an attractive market for European companies. During the 1990s, Lidl began opening up stores outside of Germany, and today it has a brand presence in 30 countries. From the first day we opened our first seven stores in Cyprus, Lidl Cyprus’ goal is to provide high quality products at the lowest possible prices. This helped us establish ourselves as a supermarket 10 years later, with 17 stores and a modern logistics centre that covers all the daily needs of the Cypriot consumer. For Lidl Cyprus, the key to success is the combination of the principles and philosophy of the multinational company with local working conditions and consumer behaviour.
Lidl is a German company. Are there cultural issues to consider when a company is adapting to a different market?
Today, Lidl has been awarded as the top retailer of foodstuffs in Europe. As an international business group, it operates throughout Europe with autonomous companies in each of these countries. Lidl supermarkets are synonymous with the economic and social development of the environment in the societies in which they operate. In this way, an important social work is developed with a view of giving back to society. At Lidl Cyprus, we are very pleased with our 10 years of activity in the Cypriot market. From the first day of our operation, the Cypriot consumer trusted in us and continues to trust in us and chooses us to meet its daily needs. From our side, we reciprocate this by offering quality products at competitive prices. In terms of market share, we are a company with a pan-Cyprian coverage and an ever-increasing presence. Our goal is to expand, penetrate neighbourhoods and meet the daily needs of Cypriots. Very soon, we will offer consumers an exemplary Lidl store in Limassol with modern architecture and a sustainable technological approach; a project of high standards.
What were some of the great successes over the years?
Being entitled “Top Employer” for the third consecutive year is a huge success for Lidl Cyprus, particularly when this award comes from the Top Employers Institute, an internationally recognised organisation which has identified and awarded top employers from 119 countries on five continents. This distinction demonstrates the company’s commitment to human resource management and demonstrates the value of being among the top companies in the country for its excellent work environment. This year, as every year, the management of Lidl Cyprus will invest more than 100,000 euros in the training and development of its employees, planning and implementation of educational activities as well as providing academic scholarships of up to 75 per cent at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. In addition, the Lidl Food Academy is, among other things, our main vehicle for educating people on food quality and is essentially a Corporate Social Responsibility centre. Our goal is to work on education that concerns new high-quality standards and for the maximum safety of consumer products.
For the past five years, our academy has been Lidl’s first experiential store in Europe, where one can have a holistic approach to how one can live better with food. What is offered are cooking classes, health and wellness seminars and tastings of products offered, in collaboration with experts when it comes to food categories which require specialised knowledge. Through the products that people buy from our stores for a better quality of life, the Lidl Food Academy is accessible to all for free.
Lidl started out as a discount concept. Since then the quality and range of products has become just as important? How did this evolve?
When we came to Cyprus we brought a new European perception to shopping. We were the ones who said that we can combine high quality at a reasonable price, which are essentially value-for-money products. We had items that were not well-known brands, we had private labels with the same high quality and production standards as the branded ones. We managed, through consistent quality, to brand them. And now the Cypriot consumer sees them as such. Our motto ‘Quality for Less’ became the ‘gene’ of the company and perfectly reflects the culture, value and philosophy of Cyprus.
However, as a company operating in Cyprus, our goal has always been to develop partnerships with Cypriot suppliers. And we have succeeded in that.
Existing partnerships are extended year after year in order to enrich our range of products with Cypriot products even more. Also, through the pan-European distribution network that we have established and our themed weekly flavours, our suppliers have managed to gain access to other European countries by offering Cypriot products in new markets, which until now were not accessible to them.
What may we expect from Lidl in Cyprus in the future?
The timeframe may have changed, but the pandemic has not affected the planning and implementation of our investment plans, which are in full swing. Our forecasts for the whole year have not fallen short of those we set earlier on in the year. At Lidl Cyprus, we are focused on adapting to any situation with flexibility and consistency, strength and responsibility. The company plans to invest in new stores, while in the long run, the goal is for its stores to increase to 21, in order to obtain a nationwide coverage. Regarding the product portfolio of Lidl Cyprus, the company’s goal in 2020 is to include new codes, of which some will be Greek products and some refrigerated products. The development of a loyalty programme has also long been in our plans. With this programme, we want to offer consumers a personalised, modern and innovative benefits programme, which is different from the usual. We want it to substantially serve the needs and desires of the modern consumer.
What is your position on e-commerce in the food sector?
Although more and more consumers are turning to e-commerce due to the times, they see it in its worst version. We are closely monitoring developments, but for us, there are serious food safety issues during transport, as it is difficult to maintain the cooling chain, especially when it comes down to simple means of transport. For us, the provision of safe products is a non-negotiable priority but also one of the reasons that, along with other issues of distribution, service and transportation makes the digital food channel unprofitable. We are ready, with regards to infrastructure for non-foodstuffs, but we have consciously chosen not to “launch” an online store at the moment.
What are the actions you have taken with regards to the coronavirus and within the framework of Corporate Social Responsibility?
With increased reflexes, we responded to the needs created for both our people and society with actions. We acknowledged the commitment of our partners towards a rapid and effective adaptation to new conditions and for this we granted an extraordinary cash benefit of 200,000 euros to all our employees regardless of their rank. We took care of the “relief” of emergencies that arose in collaboration with the Cyprus Red Cross, and supported their work as we have been doing for years, with €40,000 and the supply of products for ‘love packages’. We donated 50,000 masks for the needs and safety of young adults who will now be enlisted in the National Guard, the High Commission and the Cyprus Alliance for Rare Disorders and thus supported a large category of families.
For Lidl Cyprus, Corporate Social Responsibility is a key area of activity. From the first moment of our establishment in Cyprus we set out to achieve a double goal: on the one hand to provide excellent services to residents of the whole of Cyprus, all the while strengthening the local community, and on the other hand, develop Corporate Social Responsibility actions thus demonstrating our undivided interest in upgrading the quality of life of our citizens with our motto “on the road to a better tomorrow” for all.