With planned openings this summer of stores in Virginia and the Carolinas, Germany-based Lidl is poised to make a mark on the U.S. market – and bring lots of cargo in via The Port of Virginia.
With planned openings this summer of stores in Virginia and the Carolinas, Germany-based Lidl is poised to make a mark on the U.S. market – and bring lots of cargo in via The Port of Virginia.

A proliferation of new distribution centers is helping spur dynamic gains in import volumes at The Port of Virginia.
John F. Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of The Port of Virginia, made that point in an interview with the American Journal of Transportation.

Reinhart said it is “hard to really prove” that recent import gains at The Port of Virginia are attributable to volumes that shifted from the West Coast during the 2015 slowdowns at ports on the Pacific – and that have continued entering the United States via Atlantic ports rather than reverting to the West Coast.

“What we’re seeing is that, with the distribution centers being built, we’re getting more of those imports coming this way,” he said. “So, is it what was on the West Coast or just natural organic growth? I’m not sure.”

What is sure is that The Port of Virginia’s import load figure for 2016 was up 8.5 percent over 2015, rising to 1,174,894 filled twenty-foot-equivalent container units coming in last year.

And materials from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership show greatly expanded distribution center activity in the commonwealth, including with facilities being built by U.S. units of German supermarket chains.

According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Old Dominion saw a total of 313 announcements of distribution center facilities between 2007 and 2016, with a combined investment of $2.28 billion, generating more than 17,000 jobs.

Some of the largest of these distribution facilities, according to the VEDP, include, with square footages:

1. The Home Depot: 1,215,000

2. Amazon.com: 1,100,000

3. Philip Morris USA: 1,000,000

4. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.: 880,000

5. GSI Commerce (eBay Inc.): 879,000

6. Lidl Dienstleistung GmbH: 790,000

7. Atlas, an Americold subsidiary: 771,000

8. Katoen Natie: 662,000

9. WestRock Co.: 600,000

10. Camrett Logistics: 600,000

11. Mercury Paper: 515,000

12. Kruger Inc.: 500,000

13. Aldi US: 500,000

14. Rubbermaid Comm. Products: 454,000

15. McKesson Corp.: 450,000

16. Kohl’s Corp.: 420,000

17. Standard Motor Products: 411,000

18. J. Crew Group Inc.: 400,000

19. California Cartage Co. LLC: 385,000

20. Preferred Freezer Services: 354,000

21. Massimo Zanetti Bevearage: 338,000

22. Ace Hardware Corp.: 336,000

23. Backcountry.com: 325,000

24. The Vitamin Shoppe Inc.: 311,000

25. Safco Products Co.: 302,000

26. Republic National Distributing: 300,000

27. NIBCO of Virginia Inc.: 300,000

One of the more interesting of these investments is that of Lidl Dienstleistung, a Germany-based discount supermarket chain and one of the world’s largest retailers, with more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries.

Lidl is putting more than $200 million into U.S. headquarters and 790,000-square-foot distribution facilities at Virginia locations in Arlington and Spotsylvania County, respectively, in advance of beginning rollout this year of its first U.S. stores.

Lidl’s plans call for 100 East Coast stores by mid-2018, with the first 20 to open this summer in Virginia and the Carolinas.

The U.S. unit of another Germany-based grocery chain, Aldi, with construction to begin this year on a 500,000-square-foot distribution center and division headquarters in Dinwiddie County, is planning to open 60 more Virginia stores over the next five years, adding to the 32 it currently operates in the state. Dinwiddie County, southwest of Petersburg, already is home to the larger of two expansive Amazon.com distribution centers in operation in Virginia.