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Germany: Behind the shelves: the eight largest grocery retail chains in numbers

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

IF YOU ASK GERMANS ABOUT THEIR FAVORITE SUPERMARKET, THE ANSWER IS “EDEKA”. AT LEAST FOR 2020, AS A STUDY SHOWS. Almost 25% of those questioned spoke in favor of the supermarket giant. Lidl landed in second place, shortly before Aldi Nord and Süd, which share third place. The ranking looks a little different when it comes to sales. Here, Edeka also ranks first in the comparable period of 2019, followed by Rewe. The bottom line is that the number of companies active in the food retail sector in Germany is one fifth of all retail companies in the country. The competition in the grocery retail is fierce, which leads to general price competition and an increase in market concentration.

In 2019, the food retail had a total turnover of 166 billion euros (US$200 billion). It thus accounts for around a third of total German retail sales. However, the picture of sales development changes if one differentiates between discounters and supermarkets: supermarkets were able to increase their sales by 5.1% in 2019, discounters only by 0.8%. In the corona year 2020, both supermarkets and discounters recorded enormous increases in sales. In some cases as much as 17% more sales in December 2020 (compared to December 2019). Overall, the annual result should be more than 11% higher.

Edeka is also strong in number of stores

When it comes to the largest and most modern supermarket in Germany, Edeka is one step ahead here too: The largest supermarket in Germany opened its doors in downtown Düsseldorf in 2018: customers can choose from more than 60,000 SKUs on around 12,000 square meters over two floors. In total, Edeka has over 11,000 stores in Germany.

For years, the same four supermarket chains have always been in first place when it comes to sales worth in billions. There is not much movement in play, as shown again by the figures for the comparison period 2019, for which all comparable figures are available: Edeka (with Netto Marken discount), Rewe (with Penny), the Schwarz Group as the holding company of Kaufland and Lidl and Aldi (North and South). These four grocery chains do business with more than 70% among themselves. Overall, the sales of the 30 largest supermarket chains in the food retail sector in 2019 amounted to around a 0.25 trillion euros (US$0.3 trillion). The 30 largest grocery retailers in Germany increased their total sales in 2019 compared to the previous year by around two percent to around 247.9 billion euros (US$300 billion).

Supermarket chains in Germany: Edeka is growing the fastest

Edeka recorded the fastest growth: The food giant achieved gross sales of 61.25 billion euros (US$74 billion) in 2019. With a good 24%, the sales giant thus represents almost a quarter of the market share in the entire German food trade. Edeka's regional companies increased their sales in 2019 by a whopping 4.1%. The brand discounter Netto, which is also part of Edeka, achieved growth of just 1%.

The Rewe Group, number two in the industry behind Edeka with a 17.7% market share, had sales of around 44.9 billion euros (US$54 billion) in 2019. The turnover of the supermarkets and hypermarkets was around 24.5 billion euros (US$29 billion). With the takeover of Lekkerland, the Rewe Group was able to increase its sales by a total of 12 billion euros (US$14 billion) in 2020.

In third place: the Schwarz group

The Schwarz Group has a market share of 16.4% in Germany. The group achieved gross sales of around 41.3 billion euros (US$50 billion)in 2019. The discounter chain Lidl, which belongs to the group, was in the lead: Here sales were around 25.85 billion euros (US$ billion) an increase in sales of around 3.5% whereas Kaufland, also part of the Schwarz Group, had sales of 15.4 billion euros (US$18.5 billion).

Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd are two independent corporate groups that operate under the name Aldi Group. With a total of 11,235 stores, the two Aldi companies are considered the largest discounter in the world. The Aldi Group recorded gross sales of around 29.5 billion euros (US$35.5 billion) in 2019 in Germany, placing it in fourth place. The German market share of the food discounter is around 12%. Unlike the first to third place among the top-selling grocery chains, the increase in sales at Aldi is 0.6% (south) and 0.4% (north) below the one percent mark.

Company number of employees 2019

Edeka 381,000

Rewe around 260,200

Schwarz group around 150,000

Aldi around 47,100 (south), around 38,000 (north)

Metro group around 14,000

dm around 40,500

Rossmann around 34,000

Metro loses, Real markets are smashed

The Metro Group, to which real also belongs, had to cope with a 3.1% decline in sales with Metro with real in 2019. Overall, the Metro Group's sales fell by two percent compared to the previous year. In 2020 the ailing real markets were smashed; Since then, several supermarket chains have expressed interest in taking over various branches. These include Kaufland, Globus and Edeka. After the Federal Cartel Office granted permission for up to 160 stores to change hands, Kaufland took over 92 of the 246 stores, Globus 24 and Edeka initially 45 stores.

The drugstore market dm, ranked 6th among the most powerful supermarket chains in 2019, recorded an increase in sales of 2.1% for 2019 compared to the previous year and brought it to 8.37 billion euros. For the sake of completeness, Lekkerland (part of the Rewe Group since 2020) with 7.9 billion euros in sales (minus 3.7%) and the drugstore Rossmann (7 billion euros in sales (plus 5%)) follow in the 2019 survey period.

The dominance of the Edeka group in the supermarket segment is not only reflected in the sales figures, but also in the stores. The same applies to the discounters Lidl and Kaufland:

Company number of stores in 2019

Edeka 11,207

Rewe (groceries) 3,600

Schwarz Gruppe 12,100

Aldi 4,159

Metro Group (Real) 246

dm around 3,700

Rossmann around 2,200

Discounters are investing in more retail space

Lidl, Netto, Aldi & Co: Discounters in Germany are on the advance when it comes to expanding their branches. The stores are not only being enlarged and expanded, the range of goods is also being expanded bit by bit. Lidl and Aldi in particular have significantly maximized their retail space in the recent past, with an average of 1,000 square meters per store. At Netto, the size of the sales area averages 800 square meters, while Norma with 741 and Penny with around 727 square meters per store.

The sales forecast in connection with the average growth in the industry is based on slightly declining figures. One of the reasons is the Corona crisis, which is driving online retail and is therefore likely to have an impact on brick-and-mortar business. In 2020, Edeka recorded almost 30 million customers who, according to a survey, had shopped in one of the branches belonging to the group in the past six months and was thus ahead of the classic supermarket chains. Among the discounters, it was Aldi with 44.66 million Germans who, according to the survey, had shopped in one of the Group's branches in the past three months. Overall, the survey on consumer behavior also showed that men apparently prefer shopping in Real stores (48.9%) compared to Edeka stores (44.2%).

And even more figures: The size of the range of articles is at the same level with the industry leaders Edeka and Rewe (groceries): According to the companies, the number is up to 50,000 products that are constantly in the range. For the Netto discounters, Edeka specifies a number of items of around 3,600, whereas the range at Lidl is estimated at around 2,800 products. At Aldi there are around 1,750 products that are constantly on the shelves and are supplemented by around 130 special in&out offers every week.

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