THE LIDL-STORY sheds light on one of the greatest mysteries in the German history of trade. LIDL and Kaufland are well known businesses in Germany – after all, nearly 40 million Germans shop here regularly. But what about the story behind the retail giant?
Dieter Schwarz, the man behind LIDL and Kaufland, is regarded as a phantom. There are hardly any public pictures of Germany’s most significant entrepreneur. How is that even possible? Schwarz is surrounded by a very loyal entourage. For numerous reasons: His good deeds for his hometown Heilbronn are famous. He is not only the largest employer in the region, but also promotes art, culture and education with his foundation, the “Dieter-Schwarz-Stiftung”.
The unrivaled entrepreneurial rise of Dieter Schwarz started in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when the food industry in Germany was changing: Corner shops were becoming more and more rare, while supermarkets and chain stores were advancing – and along with them the enterprise of the family Schwarz. With the new cash and carry concept they increasingly captured the market in West Germany, whereas the Albrecht-brothers from Essen thrived with their discount stores. And Dieter Schwarz followed their lead: In 1973 he set up his own first discount store in Ludwigshafen. In the late 90’s he passed the baton on to his longtime ally Klaus Gehrig – but until this day all major decisions are made by Schwarz himself.
In the mid-2000’s LIDL caused a series of scandals concerning the working conditions of the employees, prohibition of work councils and the surveillance of staff with hidden cameras and private investigators. The brand needed a reboot and undertakes a fundamental change of its marketing in 2008. The new slogan is valid until this day: “LIDL lohnt sich! [LIDL pays off!]” – which is first of all at least true for Dieter Schwarz.