The parent group of Lidl has acquired German marketplace real.de as it seeks to augment its online offering.
Schwarz Group said it would continue to operate the marketplace under its existing brand Kaufland with the goal of complementing its physical business. Kaufland has around 1300 branches across eight countries.
As well as offering a marketplace for general goods, real.de has an extensive online grocery offering.
Rolf Schumann, chief digital officer of the Schwarz Group, said: "real.de is an essential component of our future offering. The combination of brick-and-mortar business and online trading will open up additional opportunities for us.
"This also gives our customers new advantages."
Schwarz has had a mixed relationship with online grocery. Schwarz’s two flagship brands, discounter Lidl and hypermarket chain Kaufland, both launched online grocery offerings in the country several years ago but were forced to shut them down. Last year Lidl began trialling a click and collect ordering service.
The German online grocery market is still in its infancy compared to other large economies such as the UK and US. Despite rapid year-on-year growth, online grocery in 2018 at €1.36 billion remained a fairly small percentage both of total grocery shopping (0.88%) and ecommerce (1.5%).
However, as in many countries, the pandemic has somewhat accelerated grocery’s move online. According to the German ecommerce association BEVH, online food retail sales grew 126.8% in April compared to the previous year to €308 million.
As real.de is the seventh biggest online food provider in Germany according to retail analysis body EHI Handelsdaten, the acquisition indicates Schwarz thinks market growth will continue.