Aldi and Lidl are no longer dirty words for the majority of consumers. In the same way that Primark was once sneered at, discount grocers are becoming fashionable. The question is, how long can it be sustained?

A few years ago, fashion-conscious consumers wouldn’t set foot in Primark. It was seen as the bane of the high street. Then slowly, people started to shop there but keep quiet about it. Finally, the value-fashion operator became the gem of the high street and shoppers were proud to talk about the bargains they had bagged there.

The same can now be said about discount grocers. The likes of Aldi and Lidl have been around for several years, but haven’t until now been talked about along the same lines as mainstream grocers.

For some consumers, it may still be a cloak and dagger operation to visit the local discount grocer. But there is no doubt that more consumers are going – and more AB1 consumers. This week’s TNS figures showed both Aldi and Lidl are increasing their market share, up by 19.8 per cent and 12.3 per cent respectively. In Aldi’s case, this translated into a new record share of 3 per cent.

For Primark, the turning point came when it focused on fashion as well as value. Suddenly all and sundry were mixing and matching, with a Primark bargain worn with a Prada treat. Consumers wanted fast fashion at affordable prices and Primark delivered. So much so, it is hard to see Primark ever going out of fashion.

The discount grocers too will need to offer what customers want if they are to stay in fashion. With the economic climate not likely to recover in the immediate future, the discounters still have time to make consumers proud of the bargains they get from their stores.

While Primark offers fashion at affordable prices, the discounters need to offer quality at affordable prices. Some shoppers may well be prepared to scrimp on quality during a downturn, but if they have more money to spend, they won’t bother.

But if the discounters get shoppers to try their own labels and the quality is as good as consumers’ usual brands, then they could be prepared to remain a customer for life.

For many customers, Primark forms the main shop and higher end brands are top-ups. In the same way, for many customers, discounters could become their main shop and they could top-up from the traditional supermarkets.