By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN (Reuters) - German discounter Lidl, which has expanded rapidly in Europe to become one of the continent's biggest retailers, has started a recruitment drive in the United States anticipating a launch there in 2017 or 2018.
Lidl held a hiring event for store managers in North Carolina on Monday and is inviting potential store supervisors to another event in Fairfax, Virginia on Wednesday.
"We have landed in America and we are searching for talented, friendly and dynamic people to grow with us," Lidl said on its careers website. "We are bringing a brand new fresh shopping experience to our American shoppers."
German discounter rival Aldi, which opened its first U.S. store in 1976 and now runs 1,600, is also growing fast there, under both the Aldi banner and Trader Joe's. Planet Retail forecasts Aldi will add another $5 billion of sales by 2020 to the $10 billion it recorded in 2015.
Lidl, which runs more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries in Europe, is expected to open its first 120-150 stores on the East Coast as early as the end of 2017, potentially increasing pressure on mainstream retailers like Kroger <KR.N> and Wegmans.
A spokesman said Lidl has not yet set a specific number of stores it plans to open or a total number of staff it wants to hire for them, although it expects its U.S. headquarters and three regional centers to support at least 1,000 jobs.
Holding a passport is among the requirements in Lidl's job descriptions posted for store managers as successful candidates will be expected to travel to Europe as part of a six-month training program.
"It's probably best to think about market impact on a localized level, as it will take many years for it to build any national scale," said David Gordon of consultancy Planet Retail.
Lidl is currently advertising 75 vacancies in the United States on its website, with most of the positions at its Arlington, Virginia headquarters, including experts in real estate and human resources, plus one German language teacher.
It is looking for properties in East Coast states between Pennsylvania and Georgia, with 80 sites under consideration or construction already, according to Planet Retail.
Lidl could exceed $2 billion in sales by the end of its second full year of operations and almost $9 billion by 2023, consultants Kantar Retail forecast. It expects Lidl to have over 400 stores on the East Coast within a few years.
Lidl and Aldi have become giants by selling mostly own-brand goods in no-frills stores with minimal staff.
However, both chains have struggled recently in their home market as German shoppers have shifted to mainstream supermarkets, prompting the discounters to offer more brands and spruce up their stores, while also expanding abroad.
Lidl's sales rose 9.5 percent to 64.6 billion euros ($68.7 billion) in the fiscal year to the end of February. The Schwarz group that owns Lidl and the Kaufland hypermarket chain plans to invest 6.5 billion euros in the current fiscal year.
Based in Neckarsulm in southern Germany, Lidl is owned by Germany's richest man, Dieter Schwarz, son of the company's founder Josef Schwarz.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, editing by David Evans/Ruth Pitchford)