Grocery wars heat up as Germany-based Lidl picks Pearland for first U.S. location

Germany-based Lidl could make its U.S. debut in Cypress.

Germany-based Lidl could make its U.S. debut in Cypress.

Germany-based global discount grocery store Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG is making a big splash in the U.S. retail grocery market with a proposed store in Pearland, which could be its American debut.

The U.S. arm of the international conglomerate, known as Lidl US, is going through the platting process to transform 16.84 acres of vacant, undeveloped land at the corner of FM 518 and Liberty Drive, according to city documents. The site abuts Pearland City Hall and Shadycrest Elementary School. The grocer has proposed to plat the property in two or more parcels with plans to construct a 36,000-square-foot grocery store on just 5.64 acres, according to city documents.

"Nothing is approved yet," said Lata Krishnarao, director of community development for the city of Pearland, adding that the store could offer another option for residents as more home developments crop up on the east side of the city, particularly along Pearland Parkway.

According to the 2016 Texas Retail Survey, which covered analysis of retail and sales trends between 2010 and 2015, Brazoria County was ranked No. 9 in the state for long-term retail sales growth. In 2012, Pearland was ranked as the No. 1 retail market in Texas for annual sales growth.

Whether Lidl is in talks with or has closed on a land deal is unclear. The land is currently owned by 313 Acre Pearland Joint Ventures, according to Lidl's plat application to the city, and a "for sale" sign still stands on the property. Lidl was unable to be reached for comment by press time.

After platting the property, Lidl will work with the city on zoning before it can apply for a construction permit.

In December, Lidl also submitted plans for a 35,000-square-foot grocery store in League City at the corner of League City Parkway and Tuscan Lakes Boulevard, according to the Galveston County Daily News.

The company expects to open its first round of U.S. stores in 2018, including locations in New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas. Lidl expects to open 100 stores no later than 2018, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.

But there is some opposition to the grocery store building on the proposed site. Currently, Lidl is seeking a variance to allow for alcohol sales less than 300 feet away from a school. Pearland ISD Superintendent John Kelly expressed concerns in an email to the city manager regarding the sale of alcohol at the grocer, calling an approval of the variance a "slippery slope" and adding that no other PISD school is located in close proximity to a store selling alcohol.

All alcohol sales would be for off-premises consumption only, according to a Lidl US representative.

While some council members said they weren't opposed to granting a variance to allow for alcohol sales at no less than 250 feet, allowing Lidl to wrap up the platting process, council member Trent Perez voiced some opposition, asking Lidl representatives to meet the 300 feet threshold.

"I would much prefer that y’all come to us and eliminate this site or modify your design where you don’t need this variance," Perez said.

Lidl announced plans for a U.S. expansion in 2015 with plans to construct a $77 million U.S. corporate headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and $125 million in a regional headquarters and distribution center facility in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

The Pearland location could follow the company's new store concept dubbed the "Lidl of the Future", which was launched in the United Kingdom in 2015. The store is designed with a fully glass facade and environmentally-friendly technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. The new look was part of a $1.5 billion euro—nearly $1.6 billion dollars—rollout of Lidl's expansion plans in the United Kingdom.

The grocer is a direct competitor with another Germany-based discount grocer that is familiar to residents of Shadow Creek Ranch. Aldi Inc., which has a location off West Broadway and Kirby, is expected to open its second Pearland location on the site of the shuttered Pearland Bowling Center and could open sometime this year. Construction is currently underway at the facility.

Aldi first expanded to the U.S. in 1976, where it debuted in Iowa, and now operates more than 1,600 stores across 35 states including. Aldi entered Texas for the first time in 2010 when it opened a store in Denton. It currently has about 30 stores in the greater Houston area, from as far north as Conroe to as far south as Alvin. Aldi also has a location near Friendswood.

Lidl and Aldi both dominate the European discount grocer market. Lidl operates 10,000 stores in 27 European countries, according to its website. And Aldi operates about 4,000 stores across Australia, Europe and the U.S., according to its website.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that Lidl also submitted site plans for potential plans for a store in League City.