Lidl plans to more than double its store count in the UK after enjoying strong sales.

The discounter is eyeing a 1,500 store estate over the coming years, up from the 600 shops it currently trades from, The Telegraph reported.

Lidl has the funding to open an additional 600 stores in the next three years but said it may struggle to find the sites.

The grocer told the newspaper its like-for-like sales are up 18% year on year as it has swiped shoppers from its big four rivals.

The discounter has identified that shoppers who previously did not want to be seen shopping in the budget grocer have now been surprised by its quality and value. It dubs these shoppers ‘Maidstone Mums’.

Lidl said a quarter of its shoppers are now from the A and B socio-economic groups. Its growth mirrors that of Aldi which has also enjoyed meteroic growth by offering a cheaper alternative to the major grocers.

Lidl UK managing director Ronny Gottschlich said: “We really see ourselves these days more of a supermarket than the hard discounter of the past.

“Those times are over. We are now a supermarket. We offer the best quality for the least.”

“I actually do think we are entering a new era. It is obviously different in every country how long it could take for customers’ behaviours to start changing.”

Lidl plans to invest £300m within two years as it steps up its shop openings from 15 to 20 stores a year to at least 30 to 40 stores but Gottschlich said “there are no restrictions to the number of openings Lidl can do in a year”.