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Asda Stores Ltd (/ˈæzdə/) trading as Asda, is a British supermarket retailer, headquartered in Leeds, West Yorkshire.[7] The company was founded in 1949 when the supermarket owning Asquith family merged with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire. It expanded into the south of England during the 1970s and 1980s, and acquired Allied Carpets, 61 large Gateway Supermarkets and other businesses, such as MFI, then sold off its acquisitions during the 1990s to concentrate on the supermarkets. It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 1999 when it was acquired by the American retail giant Walmart for £6.7 billion. Asda was the second-largest supermarket chain in Britain between 2003 and 2014 by market share, at which point it fell into third place. Since April 2019 it has regained its second place position, behind Tesco and ahead of Sainsbury's.[8][9]

Asda Stores Ltd.
Asda
Subsidiary
IndustryRetail
Founded19 February 1949; 70 years ago (1949-02-19)[1]
FoundersPeter and Fred Asquith[2]
Sir Noel Stockdale[3]
HeadquartersAsda House, South Bank, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England
Number of locations
633 as of 30 April 2019[4]
Key people
Roger Burnley (President & CEO)
Andy Murray (Chief Customer Officer)
Anthony Hemmerdinger (SVP - Retail Operations)
Hayley Tatum (SVP - People)
ProductsGrocery, general merchandise, financial services
RevenueDecrease £21,666 million (2016)[5]
Decrease £791.7 million (2016)[5]
Number of employees
165,000[6]
ParentWalmart
SubsidiariesAsda Mobile, Asda Money
Websitewww.asda.com

Besides its core supermarkets, the company also offers a number of other services, including financial services and a mobile phone provider that uses the existing EE network. Asda's marketing promotions are usually based solely on price, and since 2015, like its parent company, Walmart, Asda has promoted itself under the slogan "Save Money. Live Better".[10] Since 1987, Asda has also had its property development subsidiary, McLagan Investments Ltd, which is based at the main Leeds head office site. The company is responsible for acquiring land for new Asda store developments, along with the relevant planning applications that are submitted to local councils, and the potential acquisition of any retail stores or developments placed for sale on the open market by any of its main competitors.

As a wholly owned division of Walmart, Asda is not required to declare quarterly or half-yearly earnings, but it submits full accounts to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission each November. Despite being a subsidiary of Walmart, the company has more autonomy than any of the other supermarket chains within the Walmart International division, and has retained its own British management team and board since the 1999 takeover.

As of April 2018, Sainsbury's and Asda were in talks of merging. Such a merger would have given the combined supermarkets an estimated 30% share of the UK grocery market. Any merger proposal resulting from these talks would be subject to investigation by the UK regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, before taking place.[11] On 25 April 2019, the CMA announced it would not allow the merger due to an increase in price for consumers.[12]

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
A bust of co-founder Peter Asquith outside Asda House in Leeds

Early historyEdit

The Asquith family were butchers based in Knottingley, West Yorkshire. In the 1920s, their rising aspirations meant that they expanded their business to seven butchers shops in the area. Their sons, Peter and Fred, later became founding members of Asda.[13]

Around the same time, a group of West Riding dairy farmers, including the Stockdale family and Craven Dairies, joined together under the banner of J.W Hindell Dairy Farmers Ltd. This company diversified in 1949 to become Associated Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd, with Arthur Stockdale as the managing director.[14]

First storesEdit

In 1963, the Asquith brothers converted an old cinema building, the Queens in Castleford, into a self-service supermarket. Another swiftly followed in the old indoor market at Edlington, near Doncaster. Both stores traded under the name of 'Queens'. Their next store was a purpose-built supermarket in South Elmsall, near Pontefract on the site of the old Palace cinema.[13]

In 1965, when the Asquith brothers approached Associated Dairies to run the butchery departments within their small store chain, a merger was proposed. So they joined together with Noel Stockdale, Arthur Stockdale's son, to form a new company, Asda (Asquith + Dairies) (capitalised from 1985).[14]

Another store opened in Wakefield then in Wortley, Leeds which was swiftly followed by another supermarket in the Whitkirk suburb of Leeds, which consolidated the newly formed supermarket division of Associated Dairies. By 1967, the company had moved outside of Yorkshire to set up a store in the North East in Billingham, Teesside, which is still trading to the present day. By 1969, the Asquith brothers had their stake bought out by Noel Stockdale, who became chairman of the company.[14]

Asda took advantage of the abolition of retail price maintenance to offer large-scale, low-cost supermarkets. This was aided by the risky decision to acquire three struggling US-owned branches in the mid-1960s of the GEM retail group. The Government Exchange Mart stores in Preston, Lancashire, Cross Gates, Leeds and including the first out-of-town store in West Bridgford in Nottingham, that opened in November 1964, had accumulated losses of £320,000 and offered to sell the stores for 20% of whatever Asda could recoup as losses from the Inland Revenue. They received the whole amount back so got the stores for free. The rent was only 10 shillings (50p) per square foot on a 20-year lease, with no rent reviews- all in all a great deal. Asda increased GEM's £6,000 per week sales to around £60,000 per week in just six months with the new stores named solely as just Asda.[15][16]

Rapid expansion of the 1970sEdit

The 1970s had seen Asda rapidly expanding to open large superstores in edge-and out-of-town locations, and to build stores with district centres in smaller towns. It also added more petrol filling stations to stores, along with car tyre bays run by ATS. With over 30 stores in the north of England, Asda began their expansion into the south of the country with the opening of new stores in the Estover area of Plymouth, Devon and Gosport, Hampshire in 1977.[17]

By 1981, under the soon to be outgoing, Managing Director, Peter Firmston-Williams, 80 Asda stores were trading. When he first became head of the Asda stores division in 1971, with the approval of Chairman, Noel Stockdale, he introduced delicatessen counters and in-store bakery departments to all Asda stores. The last store to open under his tenure was in the Manchester suburb of Harpurhey. But the growth of the chain was slowing down and their southern expansion had been expensive. They had been competing with southern rivals Tesco and Sainsbury's to acquire prime retail sites in the more affluent South East counties of England. The first London store was not opened until 1982, in Park Royal, near Ealing. The Isle of Dogs and Charlton, London stores followed on rapidly thereafter.[18]

The 1970s and 1980s saw the diversification of Asda's product base, including the acquisition of Allied Carpets in 1978.[19]

Decline in the 1980s and early-1990sEdit

The 1980s were a turbulent period for Asda as they moved away from their founding principles of price competitiveness and good value. In 1984, new Managing Director, John Hardman, made bold attempts to halt Asda's decline, which included the introduction of Asda branded products.[20]

In 1985, Asda merged with MFI (Mullard Furniture Industries) and the group was renamed Asda-MFI Group plc.[21]

Asda established its headquarters at "Asda House". The site was officially opened in 1988, by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.[22]

By the end of the 1990s the 'Asdale'-named clothing range was replaced by the clothing ranges from the newly formed George Davies partnership with Asda. Davies was an experienced and successful entrepreneur who had founded the Next clothing chain of retail stores.[23]

Near bankruptcy and purchase by WalmartEdit

With stores mainly based in the North of England, the newly focused food retail group expanded further south in 1989 by buying the large format stores of rival Gateway Superstores for £705 million. City estimates suggested that Asda had overpaid by around £300 million for 61 of the largest Gateway stores, two undeveloped store sites and a distribution centre. That was far above the net book value of the locations some of which were poorly sited. Asda has subsequently relocated or rebuilt more than 30 of the original Gateway stores since the late 1990s. This move overstretched the company and by 1991, it found itself in serious financial trouble and saddled with £1 billion of debt.[24]

The company was close to breaching its banking covenants and Asda came very close to bankruptcy. The company raised funds through two major rights issues, one in 1991 and the second in, 1993. By the middle of 1995, with Archie Norman as CEO from 1991, along with his new management team in place, staged one of the most successful turnaround stories in British retail history. As chairman of the company during the period 1996–99, Norman remodelled the store along the lines of Walmart, the world's largest retailer.[25] Executive Allan Leighton travelled to Bentonville, Arkansas to assess and photograph the systems and marketing deployed by Walmart.[26]

When Norman left the company to pursue his political career, he was replaced by Leighton. Walmart wanted to enter the UK market so CEO Bob Martin lobbied British Prime Minister Tony Blair on planning issues.[27] Asda, which at the time owned 229 stores, was purchased by Walmart on 26 July 1999 for £6.7 billion, trumping a rival bid from Kingfisher plc.[28]

After purchase by WalmartEdit

In 2005, amid reported concerns within Walmart about a slippage in market share, partially due to a resurgent Sainsbury's, Asda's chief executive, Tony De Nunzio left, and was replaced by Andy Bond. In 2005, Asda expanded into Northern Ireland by purchasing 12 former Safeway stores from Morrisons.[29][30]

Asda's property development arm, Gazeley Limited, was sold to Economic Zones World (EZW), a Dubai World subsidiary, in June 2008 for in excess of £300m.[31]

In November 2008, there were reports that Asda was to buy Irish retailer Dunnes Stores.[32]

In April 2010, Asda announced plans to open over 100 new non-food stores as part of an ambitious five-year plan. These plans were mothballed shortly after because of the recession and the reining in of spending by consumers on non-food purchases.[33]

In August 2009, Walmart "sold" Asda for £6.9 billion to their Leeds-based investment subsidiary Corinth Services Limited.[34] The deal was described as part of a "group restructuring" and meant Asda remained under the control of Walmart, since Corinth is itself a Walmart subsidiary.[35]

On 11 May 2010, Andy Clarke, a former manager of an Asda store, who was also the chief operating officer, was appointed as CEO.[36]

In May 2010, Asda bought the original Netto UK supermarket chain in a £778 million deal. The deal provided the company with smaller stores that became part of the supermarket division formed in 2009, with most Netto stores being only one fifth of the size of a branch within the core Asda superstore format. In September 2010, Asda was required to sell 47 of the existing 194 Netto stores following a ruling by the Office of Fair Trading. The rebranding of Netto stores to Asda began in early 2011.[37]

In February 2011, Asda announced the purchase of six stores from Focus DIY; five of these were converted into supermarkets later that year.[38][39]

In June 2016, it was announced that Andy Clarke, CEO since 2010, would be replaced by Sean Clarke, the head of parent company Walmart's operations in China.[40][41][42]

In October 2017, Asda announced that the current CEO, Sean Clarke would be replaced by Roger Burnley, the deputy CEO, from 1 January 2018, and the sixth CEO since 2000.[43][44]

In November 2017, Asda recruited Jesús Lorente, from French hypermarket retailer Carrefour. He became CMO (Chief Merchandising Officer), in January 2018, and was put in charge of the fresh food and general merchandise offer within all stores. After reportedly clashing with Roger Burnley and only six months in his post, Lorente left Asda at the end of July 2018. His role was divided up between Burnley and Anthony Hemmerdinger.[45]

Abandoned merger with Sainsbury'sEdit

In April 2018, Sainsbury's and Walmart announced negotiations about a possible merger of Sainsbury's and Asda, creating the largest supermarket chain in the UK.[46] Under the plans, Walmart would own 42% of the combined business,[47] which would be led by the existing chief executive of Sainsbury's, Mike Coupe. The group would also open branches of Argos within Asda stores. The merger is currently under intense scrutiny by a cross-party group of MPs, who are chairing select committees for the proposed merger between the two companies, and along with the Competition and Markets Authority, are investigating the impact of how the deal could negatively affect the retail industry by a possible reduction of consumer choice for shoppers resulting in price rises, and of how suppliers, especially smaller, family-owned companies could be squeezed by the combined group. The CMA, as of June 2018, have been inundated with complaints by suppliers and other major retailers of the damage they feel will be inflicted upon them if the deal is approved.[48] On 25 April 2019 the CMA blocked the proposed merger with Sainsburys suggesting that if the merger was to happen it would increase prices for consumers and make competition unfair for the other UK retailers, Sainsbury's then announced that it was abandoning the merger.[12][49]

Store formatsEdit

 
A Supercentre in Haydon, Swindon, branded Asda Walmart in 2013

Asda SupercentresEdit

Following the takeover by Walmart, several "Asda Walmart Supercentres" have been opened, creating some of the largest hypermarkets in the United Kingdom. Since 2006, all new Supercentres have been solely branded as Asda Supercentre without the Walmart branding. The first Supercentre with a sales area of 8,600 m2 (93,000 sq ft) opened in Patchway, Bristol in the summer of 2000. The first Scottish Supercentre opened in Livingston, in 2001.[50] The Bletchley, Milton Keynes Supercentre which opened in November 2005 is currently the largest Asda Supercentre with a net sales floor of over 11,000 m2 (120,000 sq ft).[51] This was preceded in June 2002 by the Eastlands, Manchester store which was the largest store at the time with a sales area of 10,000 m2 (110,000 sq ft) but is currently the second largest Asda Supercentre, and the third largest is located in Minworth, West Midlands, followed by Patchway. As of 31 January 2019, there are 32 Supercentres.[4]

Asda SuperstoresEdit

Asda superstores are large supermarkets with a non-food offer slightly smaller than an Asda Supercentre. As of 30 April 2019, there are 341 superstores. Most superstores have a petrol filling station and dining and refreshment facilities for shoppers such as customer cafes, and selected stores have McDonald's franchise restaurants or "Express Diners" The Old Kent Road, Scunthorpe and Colindale stores are trialling a Subway franchise. There are currently no plans to roll the Subway franchise out across the chain.[4]

Asda SupermarketEdit

In May 2010, Asda announced the purchase of the 193 UK stores of Danish discount retailer Netto in a £778 million deal. But the Competition Commission made them sell off 47 of the stores to other retailers. The remaining stores continued to trade as Netto stores until early 2011, when Asda integrated the stores into its supermarkets division, designated for shops smaller than 2,300 m2 (25,000 sq ft).[52] These former Netto stores form the core of the Asda Supermarket format.[53] As of 30 April 2019, there are 209 supermarkets.[4]

Asda LivingEdit

 
An Asda Living branch in Leeds.

In October 2003, Asda launched a new format called 'Asda Living'. This is the company's first "general merchandise" store, containing all its non-food ranges including clothing, home electronics, toys, homewares, health, and beauty products. With these stores they have linked up with Compass Group who operate the coffee shop Living Cafe within some of the stores. The first store with this format opened in Walsall, West Midlands. As at 3o April 2019, there are 33 stores.[4]

George storesEdit

In 2004, the George clothing brand was extended to a number of standalone George stores on the high street; the first George standalone store to open was in Preston. In 2008, all George standalone stores were closed due to high rental costs resulting in low profitability.[54]

In 2011, Asda announced its intention to establish a small number of pilot George stores.[55] In January 2012 Asda announced that it had agreed to terms with two franchise partners to open international George stores. Through the agreement with SandpiperCI, based in the Channel Islands, the company will be responsible for opening George franchises in both Jersey and Guernsey, and through the Azadea Group, headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, the George franchise stores would open in the Middle East.[56]

Asda EssentialsEdit

In April 2006, Asda launched a new trial format called 'Asda Essentials' in a former Co-op store in Northampton, followed by another in Pontefract a month later. This was the old Kwik-Save building for Pontefract.[57] The stores were modelled on France's Leader Price chain, with a smaller floorplate than Asda's mainstream stores and with a primary focus on own-brand products, only stocking branded items that were perceived to be at the "core" of a family's weekly shop with the aim being to challenge the dominance of Tesco and Sainsbury's in the convenience store market while at the same time addressing competition from discount supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto.[57] On 6 December 2006, The Guardian newspaper reported that further planned store openings were under review following poor sales in the existing outlets, while the range of branded products being carried was also being expanded due to customer demand.[57] In January 2007 it was announced that the original trial store would close within a month after only 10 months of trading.[58]

Asda PetrolEdit

In 2012, Asda trialled a new standalone petrol filling station format (which means that they are not attached to or near an existing Asda store) at two locations in Sale, Greater Manchester and Leeds Bridge, which is located near to their head office. They include a small convenience store and click and collect facilities. The trial was a success and in 2014, a full roll out of this format was announced after a third site opened in Northolt, West London. In February 2015, 15 petrol filling stations were acquired from Rontec Ltd, and converted to the new format. Asda originally aimed to have at least 100 standalone forecourts by 2018. However, in October 2015, the company decided to slow the roll out down to address the problems associated with a major collapse of profits from its large store formats due to intense competition from its main rivals. But, the company is still continuing to add a combination of fully automated credit/debit card payment only petrol stations and petrol stations with traditional forecourt shops within the car parks of its existing store portfolio and to new store sites.[4]

Asda was also the first supermarket chain in the United Kingdom to sell petrol at its old Halifax store in 1967, which at the time was located inside a converted mill in Battinson Road which burnt down during a major fire in 1982, and subsequently reopened as a purpose-built store in 1983, but it no longer offered a petrol station. The store moved to a different site in 2004. Back then its forecourt fuel was supplied by discount Russian supplier Nafta, because the major oil companies would not supply fuel to be sold at discount prices. From the early seventies, oil companies such as Mobil, Shell and Texaco supplied fuel to Asda as more supermarkets started to sell fuel from car park forecourts. Since the mid-1990s Asda has supplied, along with its main supermarket rivals, its own fuel delivered by its own tankers to its petrol station forecourts. As of June 2018, Asda operates 319 petrol stations in total, most within the car park area of its stores. And, as of 30 April 2019, that includes 18 standalone petrol stations.[4]

Brands and servicesEdit

Asda Smart PriceEdit

 
Asda's former Smart Price logo, used until 2012

Asda Smart Price is a no-frills private label trade name. The equivalent from Tesco is Everyday Value.[59]

Between 2000/2001, the Smart Price brand replaced the Asda Farm Stores budget brand which had been introduced, at first initially, into some underperforming stores back in 1993. In 2012, it was revised to match the branding of the Walmart Great Value line.[60]

Under the new Asda management team it was decided to reintroduce the Farm Stores brand on selected fresh food products, as part of the company's plans to return and reconnect to its core founding heritage. These products include fresh meat and produce. The Farm Stores brand was officially relaunched in April 2017. In 2018, Asda announced to scrap 5p carrier bags in all stores by the end of the year.[61]

Chosen By YouEdit

In 2010, Asda relaunched its mid-tier Asda own label brand.[62] Asda announced that it would be phasing out the "Chosen By You" brand starting in 2016.[63]

George clothingEdit

Asda has its own range of clothing known as George, which was created and trialled in selected stores in 1989, and officially launched and rolled out to the main superstore estate in 1990. It replaced the older Asdale/Asda clothing labels of the 1970s and 1980s.[64] This is marketed as quality fashion clothing at affordable prices. Walmart also sells the George brand in Argentina, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, and the US (and in South Korea until Walmart pulled out of that market). George clothing is also sold at four stand alone dedicated stores in Malta, the first opening in 2013. The label is named after George Davies, founder of Next, who was its original chief designer. Davies himself parted company with Asda in 2000 and is no longer associated with the brand.[65]

In 2005, Asda stated that the George range was a £1.75 billion business, including sales from Walmart stores in the United States and Germany. Mintel estimate that George is the fourth largest retailer of clothing in the United Kingdom, after Marks & Spencer, the Arcadia Group and Next.[66]

Asda was the first supermarket to stock wedding dresses. Part of the George line, they cost £60 while adult bridesmaid dresses ranged between £30 and £35, at launch.[67]

Asda MobileEdit

Asda also operates a mobile phone network called Asda Mobile, which was launched in April 2007. This is provided in partnership with EE.[68]

Asda MoneyEdit

Asda has a financial services division, similar to those operated by Tesco, Sainsbury's and other retailers. Asda simply attaches its own brand to products provided by other companies. Services offered include car insurance (provided by Brightside Insurance Services), credit cards (provided by Creation Financial Services) and travel money bureaux (provided by Travelex). The financial services division of the organisation does not directly sell these services in store and instead uses the supplier of that product by telephone or online/postal application. Marketing and management of financial services is co-ordinated in house and many stores have a financial services co-ordinator, responsible for promoting the products and ensuring legal compliance. The Financial Services division is also responsible for gift cards, Christmas Saver and Business Rewards.[69]

DistributionEdit

Asda now has 25 distribution depots all across the UK which distribute across the network of stores.[70] There are depots for chilled foods, clothing and ambient products, such as carbonated drinks and cereals.[71]

ToYouEdit

Alongside ASDA's distribution supply chain now exists the ToYou parcel service.[72] In 2015,[73] the store chain announced that it would be getting involved in click and collect plus returns for online orders from retailers such as ASOS[74] and Ideal World.[75]

Financial performanceEdit

As of 19 May 2019, Asda was in second-equal place in the UK grocery market top 4 share, with: Tesco 27.3%, Sainsburys 15.2%, Asda 15.2%, Morrisons 10.4%[76]

Employee relationsEdit

The company has featured prominently in lists of "Best companies to work for", appearing in second place in The Times newspaper list for 2005.[77] It offers staff a discount of 10% on most items (exceptions include fuel, stamps, lottery, giftcards and tobacco related items).[78]

The company was fined £850,000 in 2006 for offering 340 staff at a Dartford depot a pay rise in return for giving up a union collective bargaining agreement.[79] Poor relations continued as Asda management attempted to introduce new rights and working practices shortly thereafter at another centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.[80]

Some compromise was reached by June of that year, when a five-day strike was called off after Asda management and the GMB union reached an agreement.[81]

Relations have improved since, with both Asda and the GMB marking the death of a worker together on Workers' Memorial Day in 2010.[82]

In 2013, tens of thousands of Asda workers across the UK were hit with a tax complication because of an anomaly in Asda's payroll system. Asda employees receive their pay every four weeks, which meant, according to their spokesperson, that once every 20 years they are paid 14 times a year rather than 13. Whilst most companies handle this properly, Asda's payroll system did not, which meant that workers had, through no fault of their own, paid less tax for the year than they should have. This resulted in most full-time and a small number of part-time workers receiving a demand from HM Revenue & Customs for between £72 to £160.[83]

MarketingEdit

 
An unmanned Asda petrol station in Middleton, Leeds.

In the 'Asda price' campaign,[84] customers tap their trouser pocket twice, producing a 'chinking' sound as the coins that Asda's low prices have supposedly left in their pockets knock together. The pocket tap ads were launched in 1977 and over the next 30 years, a range of celebrities have been "tappers", including from 1978, actors Richard Beckinsale, Paula Wilcox and James Bolam. And later, Julie Walters, and football player Michael Owen. In the late 1970s, adverts also included Sitcom actor Leonard Rossiter.[85]

In 1980, Carry On actress Hattie Jacques appeared in the advert as a school crossing patrol officer.[86] Between 1981 and 1985, Asda used the slogan 'All Together Better' in conjunction with the 'Asda Price' pocket tap campaign in TV commercials and newspaper and magazine advertisements. When the new green capitalised ASDA logo started to appear from 1985, in early 1986 onwards and until early 1989, two slogans were used. The first, 'You'd be off your trolley to go anywhere else', was replaced in 1987 by 'One trip and you're laughing'.[87]

In 1989, and until late 1991, before the reintroduction of the pocket tap campaign, advertising for Asda had featured the Fairground Attraction song "Perfect" with the slogan 'It 'Asda be Asda', which was based upon the lyrics of the song. When the Asda Price slogan was reintroduced in 1992, the strapline Pocket the Difference (capitalised) was added alongside it. This was replaced by Permanently Low Prices, Forever in 1996.[88]

From 1990 to 1991, Asda were the sponsors of Sheffield Wednesday F.C..[89]

In December 1997, the Spice Girls licensed their name and image to Asda for the creation of over 40 different Spice Items for Christmas 1997, including goods such as party supplies, official merchandise, and Spice Girl branded kids' meals in the stores' restaurants.[90] The Spice Girls reportedly earned £1 million from the deal.[91]

In the smiley face "rollback" campaign, also used by Walmart, a CGI smiley face bounced from price tag to price tag, knocking them down as customers watch.[92] In 2006, Asda advertising was themed around singing children and the slogan "More for you for less", and the previous tap of the trouser pocket advertising was reduced to a double-tap on a stylised 'A', still producing the 'chinking' sound.[93]

For Christmas 2007, Asda reintroduced the "That's Asda price" slogan.[94]

In 2008, the company refocused on price with a "Why Pay More?" campaign both on TV and in stores. Asda TV commercials in April 2009 focused on price comparisons between Asda and its rivals, using information from mySupermarket. The music being used in these adverts is the Billy Childish version of the classic Dad's Army theme tune. The old Asda jingle is not included in these,[95] but appeared in a 2008 Christmas advert.[96]

Asda has been winner of The Grocer magazine "Lowest Price Supermarket" Award for the past 16 years,[97] and uses this to promote itself across the UK. In August 2005, rival supermarket chain Tesco challenged Asda's ability to use the claim that it was the cheapest supermarket in the country, by complaining to the Advertising Standards Agency. The ASA upheld the complaint and ordered Asda to stop using it.[98]

Corporate social responsibilityEdit

Energy efficiencyEdit

Asda was the top-performing supermarket in the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Performance League Table, coming in at 37 and beating Morrisons at 56, Tesco at 93, and Sainsbury's at 164.[99]

Ethical tradingEdit

Asda has signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) which respects workers' rights for freedom of association and a living wage. Implementing this initiative is difficult, however, because the concept of a living wage varies by country and the buying strategies of a major importer like Asda have an indirect impact on national minimum wages by obliging governments to set them low enough to stop businesses from going elsewhere.[100] Industry pressure groups such as Labour Behind the Label and War on Want have argued that Asda and other budget retailers use unethical labour practices in the developing world to keep UK prices low.[101][102]

The National Farmers' Union, representing UK farmers and growers, has argued that Asda and other major supermarkets have made large profits and kept consumer prices low "by squeezing suppliers' margins to the point where many of them have gone out of business".[103] Asda have also refused to sign up to and donate to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, to donate compensation to the families of workers in Bangladesh killed when their factory building in Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013. Instead, Asda donated an undisclosed sum to the poverty relief charity Building Relationships Across Communities, who in turn pledged around £1.3m to the fund. Campaigners believe Asda is unwilling to set a precedent on indemnity pay for large scale industrial accidents.[104]

In 2009, Asda's Valentine's Day roses, sold at £2 for a dozen, were said to be ethically sourced by the supermarket. This claim went against research carried out by War on Want.[105]

Call for boycottEdit

In October 2010, Chairman Andy Bond was a signatory to a controversial letter to The Daily Telegraph,[106] which claimed that "The private sector should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector, and the redeployment of people to more productive activities will improve economic performance, so generating more employment opportunities." This was followed by calls by the pressure group Liberal Conspiracy for a boycott of Asda, as well as the companies represented by the other signatories to the letter on the grounds that "Companies that support the CSR are failed corporate citizens."[107]

ChildrenEdit

In January 2018 Asda became the first supermarket to ban selling energy drinks such as Red Bull to under 16's.[108]

SponsorshipsEdit

CharitiesEdit

Asda supports the following charities through its stores:

ControversiesEdit

Dairy price fixingEdit

In December 2007, Asda, Sainsbury's and other retailers and dairy firms admitted to the price fixing of dairy products between 2002 and 2003.[115] The price fixing operation was calculated to have cost consumers around £270 million.[116]

Asda commented, "Everyone at Asda regrets what happened, particularly as we are passionate about lowering prices. Our intention was to provide more money for dairy farmers, who were under severe financial pressure at the time."[117] In total, Asda was fined £18.21 million by the Office of Fair Trading for its part in the cartel.[118]

False and misleading advertisingEdit

In 2010, a national press ad for Asda on a double-page spread was headed "The big Asda Rollback" with headings stating "Lower prices on everything you buy, week in week out" with equal prominence to a column headed "Lower prices than any other supermarket"; that the arrows underneath the heading "Lower prices than any other supermarket" compared prices at Asda with prices at Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons. The ASA ruled that in the context in which it appeared, it was ambiguous in that it could be interpreted either as referring to price reductions that had taken place within Asda or to price comparisons with the named competitors. In addition, because the ad did not explain that the price reductions had not necessarily taken place in the week that immediately preceded the ad, they concluded that the headings which stated the number of price reductions that had taken place in each product category were misleading. The ASA also concluded that the "Lower prices than any other supermarket" claim in the advert was misleading.[119]

The ASA disagreed, and referred to the claim "Everything is at least half price!" was likely to imply to viewers that all toys were included in the sale. As all toys were not included in the sale, and in the absence of a qualifying statement, the ad was misleading.[120]

The ASA ruled that a television advertisement in 2011 for the new Asda price guarantee was misleading in that the small on-screen text that stated "Exclusions apply" was not sufficient to warn viewers that the Asda price guarantee did not apply to non-grocery items.[121]

The ASA also ruled against two national press ads one which showed hardback and children's books and one that showed football related items with text stating "If your grocery shopping could have cost less elsewhere we'll give you the difference - Guaranteed!". Although each advert had "Exclusions apply" and that other text stated "If your grocery shopping could have cost less elsewhere we'll give you the difference", it felt that given the prominent appearance of the hardback and children's activity books and football related items and the prominent appearance of the logo "ASDA Price GUARANTEE" and "Guaranteed!", they considered the footnote and other text referred to above was not sufficient to warn readers that non-grocery items particularly those included in the advertisement were not included in the Asda price guarantee.[121]

Another advertisement from Asda, in which it featured World Cup related products and an Asda price guarantee was misleading as the World Cup related products were exclusive to Asda and not, therefore, available at Morrisons, Tesco or Sainsbury's.[121]

In 2009, the ASA challenged whether a press ad which showed a large green arrow bearing down on a smaller yellow arrow with a crumpled tip and "Asda 2955 products cheaper" should set out how the general price claims made in the ads could be verified by consumers. Because it was not possible for consumers or competitors to check the products and prices used in the comparison using mySupermarket.co.uk, and because the ads did not set out how consumers and competitors could check that information for themselves, the ASA concluded that the ads did not satisfy the criterion of verifiability as defined in the 2006 European Court of Justice ruling, and were therefore in breach of the advertising Codes.[122]

The ASA ruled that, due to the significant limitations and qualifications to the basis of the price comparison which were not included in the ad, or in the terms and conditions on Asda's website, the approach taken in making the comparisons was unfair and misleading.[123]

A press ad, which appeared on 26 September 2011, was headlined "Only one supermarket is ... always 10% cheaper or we'll give you the difference guaranteed". However, at the top of the ad there was a banner that contained the claims "SALE", "Half Price", "Price Drop", "50% off", "1/2 price", "cheap" and that part of the headline claim "... always 10% cheaper" appeared in bold text in the middle of the ad. The ASA considered the banner, together with the headline was likely to be interpreted by consumers as claims that referred to the price of Asda goods. Since consumers could interpret that claim as one which guaranteed to refund the difference, should Asda not be the lowest on price, the ASA considered the presence of the claim "only one supermarket is always 10% cheaper" could create the impression that Asda were always 10% cheaper and would be interpreted as a 'lowest price' claim. The ASA therefore concluded that the advert was misleading. It also noted the footnote explaining the APG contradicted Asda's absolute claim that they were always the lowest on price, and that the disclaimer was also misleading.[124]

In 2009, a four-page regional press wraparound included several maps and images of a proposed development in New Barnet, and described the benefits the development would bring to the local area. The advert included a development site plan and map, which marked out the proposed Asda store, the existing Sainsbury store and the sites of the proposed, approved and existing Tesco stores. Because it was not clear that the marked-out area relating to the Asda store was for only the store floorspace, whereas the marked-out area relating to the Sainsburys store included store floorspace and additional buildings, and the marked-out area relating to the proposed Tesco area was not based on an approved plan, the ASA concluded the advertisement was misleading.[125]

2013 horsemeat scandalEdit

In 2013, DNA tests revealed that horsemeat was present in Asda's Chosen By You fresh beef Bolognese sauce, the first instance during the 2013 meat adulteration scandal of horsemeat being found in fresh meat.[126]

Arbitrary policy on banning customers accused of shopliftingEdit

In June 2019 a regular customer was banned from every Asda store in the UK after she claimed a self-scanner missed £16 worth of shopping. Beth Robinson said she was stopped outside her local Scunthorpe store after she hadn't paid for a number of items. She claimed she scanned everything she picked up but that the machine didn't work properly. The mum-of-five claimed she was treated like a "common criminal" after using the scan-as-you-go device to make sure she stuck to a strict budget. The 31-year-old said she had scanned every item to not go over £45 but claimed she didn't realise some items hadn't been logged. She told Grimsby Live: "A security guard approached me outside the shop just after I had finished and said I needed to come back inside because there was discrepancies with the shopping. They rescanned all of my shopping and found it had missed £16 of items off. One of them was an £8 tub of baby formula for my seven-month-old son, who was with me at the time. The others were very cheap Savers items like 70p ham and crisps for my children. Why would I steal from there? I do three shops there a week, spending about £100 to £150 each week. I've spent so much money there over the years - why would I start stealing 70p items?" The mum claimed she told staff to watch the CCTV to see her scanning all the items, but said no one did. Beth was asked to sign an exclusion order, banning her from all Asda stores for a year.[127]

AwardEdit

  • March 2009: Voted Innovative Employer of the Year, at the Oracle Retail Week Awards.[128]

See alsoEdit

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Coordinates: 53°47′32″N 1°32′42″W / 53.79222°N 1.54500°W / 53.79222; -1.54500

External linksEdit