Lidl has launched into the clothing market with a range that incudes a £14.99 leather jacket. But how will it fare in a very competitive market?

How are supermarkets gaining share in the clothing market?

Supermarkets are making considerable strides in the fashion market. Our figures show that the sales of clothing and accessories through grocers grew by around 30% over 2008-2013, with footwear sold through supermarkets growing by 22.4% over the same period.

With clothing conveniently available at many large format supermarkets and with several offering click-and-collect too, this is a big opportunity for grocers, particularly when you consider their value-level prices for essential pieces.

Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury have all invested considerably in their offers. At Asda alone, our figures show fashion constitutes 31.8% of its non-food mix, so it’s a really important component of their range.

Can Lidl’s brand stretch to fashion? Will it resonate with shoppers?

If anyone had claimed Lidl would be making strides in fashion a couple of years ago, there would have been a few dubious faces. However, no one expected Aldi and Lidl to start winning international wine awards either.

However many doubts people might have over the fashion range, if Lidl is selling cheap, staple products – and, with shirts going for £5.99 – from Monday, there will always be a market for it. It might not resonate with the typically fashion-driven shopper, but it will serve a budget-led demographic.

What challenges might it face?

Although grocers are perceived as a cost clothing solution, the pressure is on now to attain certain fashionable standards. Already we have the likes of Asda working with designers, whilst in some countries Tesco’s F&F brand operates as a standalone fashion outlet.

It’s not enough to just be cheap; the fashion world is demanding and grocers are raising their standards when it comes to quality and design, so Lidl will be looking to compete on these factors as well as cost. The interesting thing to note is that Lidl expects to refresh its range as often as every six weeks.  

Whilst this might help it keep up in terms of trends, it may lead to customers being disappointed, especially if a product has already gone out of stock by the time they’ve heard about it. It does beg the question as to whether Lidl will actually be able to achieve this too; although it’s a standard merchandising period for fashion specialists, it’s a very demanding replacement cycle by supermarket standards and it may find presentation slipping in its efforts to keep up with this short merchandising cycle and it doesn’t give it much time to assess what fashion products are performing well and which need to be reviewed.

If Lidl ramps up its fashion offer, who might it hurt the most out of the value fashion retailers and supermarkets?

It looks like Lidl’s initial offer will focus on womenswear and menswear, whilst Morrisons currently only caters for children, so there is less of a threat there. However, if Lidl introduces childrenswear too, this could represent serious competition for all grocers with a clothing proposition, as childrenswear tends to be where supermarkets perform best for fashion.

Both Asda and Primark have mature clothing propositions – not just in terms of range but in terms of presence and fulfillment capabilities, as well as social media outreach. Even if Lidl expands its range, it will be quite a while before they command the sort of following that established players already enjoy.

  • Anusha Couttigane is fashion consultant at Conlumino

Lidl makes play for value fashion market with new clothing range