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John Ryan

Growing Good Will in Store

Lidl opens in Turin, Italy

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As summer hovers into view in the northern hemisphere, things are heating up on the eco-store front. In Germany, the spread of food stores featuring fresh fruit and vegetables that are not packaged has been widely commented on (although there is rather more in the way of comments than there are shops at this point), but to get a sense of the real direction of travel and where we are headed, it’s worth considering a Lidl store in the former capital of Italy: Turin.

Here, the German discount grocer has opened a store with a market garden on its roof. The selling area of the single-floor shop is a little shy of 13,500 square feet, while the roof garden, home to a series of vegetable plots, is just over 15,000 square feet. The store itself is located in a 48,000 square foot area of the city that had been largely abandoned until redevelopers moved in, with the Lidl store taking pride of place.

This is a reasonably standard small supermarket, but up on the roof, the community is busy growing vegetables, in concert with a local NGO (non-governmental organization), and it all looks a little like a bit of eco-payback from big retail. With the usual solar panels (the sun shines a lot in Italy) and a part of the store being used that would normally be home to a few air-conditioning units and perhaps some kind of chimney, this looks like a step forward. Lidl claims it is the world’s “largest urban garden.”

Maybe so, but even if this is not the case, when a large mainstream retailer decides to do something in the green common interest, it’s a fair bet that change is not just on the way, it’s happening. And consumers like it.

‘Eco-stores’ may actually be a more effective way of creating shopper goodwill than endless amounts of tech.  

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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