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Lidl plans second Lancaster County store as grocery wars continueDiscount grocers could shift the playing field for upscale competition

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German grocery chain Lidl is planning a second store in Lancaster County, adding fuel to what is turning into a major shake-up of the midstate's grocery scene.

Lidl plans to build the store at 2001-2017 Columbia Ave. in East Hempfield Township, a just-under 5-acre lot situated across Columbia Avenue from a CVS Pharmacy and across Good Drive from a Travelodge.

The store has submitted a sketch plan that will go before the township's planning commission Wednesday night, said township manager Bob Krimmel. After that, Lidl will need to go through a land development process that could take between six and eight months.

Krimmel deferred further comment to Lidl, which did not immediately return a request for information Wednesday. LNP reports that the store is expected to cost $5 million to develop, employ 30 to 35 people and cover 36,000 square feet, making it about half the size of typical stores by chains like Weis and Giant.

Grocery stores throughout the midstate have undergone a whole shopping list of changes over the past few years, creating a landscape that might have seemed strange to shoppers even just a decade ago - one filled with German names, high-end retailers and, in some cases, booze.

On the discount side, Lidl wasted no time swooping into the midstate this summer to go toe-to-toe with its German rival, Aldi. Both stores offer goods at prices significantly lower than some of the more mainstream competition and have been able to keep profit margins high through smaller stores stocked with a smaller selection of goods.

Aldi is the more established of the two brands in the U.S. with 1,600 stores across the country - including about 10 in and around the midstate. Lidl, meanwhile, has about 25 stores on the East Coast with three locations planned in York County and two in Lancaster County, including the Columbia Avenue store.

Discount grocers as a whole have been doing exceedingly well in an economy that has shone favorably on all kinds of off-price retailers. Locally, Aldi and Lidl are competing with the likes of Grocery Outlet Bargain Market (formerly Amelia's). 

On the other end of the spectrum are the upscale Wegmans and Whole Foods, both of which have locations planned in Lancaster County. These stores have marketed themselves as higher-quality alternatives to the competition, although they, too, have had to lower prices in recent months to compete with the new players in town.

Then there are the regional staples: Pennsylvania-based Giant, Weis and, on a more local level, Stauffers of Kissel Hill. All three grocers have tried to balance middle-of-the-road pricing with expanded in-store options, including, in the case of Giant and Weis, beer and wine sales.

Unlike Lidl, these brands have adopted a bigger-is-better mindset when it comes to their stores. Giant recently shuttered two Lancaster County locations that leaders said were too small to compete, and Stauffers announced in July that it plans to do the same with a 22,000-square-foot store in Manheim Township.

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Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz

Jennifer Wentz covers Lancaster County, York County, financial services, taxation and legal services. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at jwentz@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @jenni_wentz.

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