Asda’s fightback begins on the East Lancs Road

Chris Barry

THE East Lancs Road will see the launch of Asda’s first Click and Collect pod in the UK next month, which it hopes will begin a revival in the supermarket group’s fortunes.

The site near St Helens is on a main route between Liverpool and Manchester and is positioned about a mile from the M6.

It is one of two initiatives Asda is launching – the second is trials of London high street stores – as it battles to reverse falling sales.

Asda chief executive Andy Clarke struck a defiant note after sales dropped 3.9% during an “unprecedented” quarter.

He defended the figures, for the 15 weeks to April 19, by saying the supermarket group was “in a period of expected turbulence, not distress” and stressed it “remains a balanced, healthy sustainable business”.

The rise of the discounters Lidl and Aldi, food price deflation and the tactics of its rivals to shore up their own positions all contributed to the poor figures.

It is the third consecutive quarter of falling sales – and the biggest drop.

Mr Clarke said: “This last quarter has been unprecedented. We have seen deflation in the market and exponential shifts in the industry.

“Although I still believe that 18 months ago we did a great job of predicting changes, we could not have foreseen what’s happened to others and the moves they have had to make in order to restore their business – creating an impact on us in the short-term.

“Whilst I take no pride in reporting a negative number, we are in a period of expected turbulence, not distress. We won’t buy short term sales at the expense of long term profitability.  Throughout this period of change in our sector, Asda has been first to market with its response.

“Fundamentally, Asda remains a balanced, healthy sustainable business with a clear direction allowing us to hold our nerve and remain focussed on delivering for our customers.”

In February, Asda announced a £600m store investment programme which would fund 17 store openings this year and the remodelling of a further 62 stores.

Asda’s American owner Wal-Mart saw its international sales suffer in the three months to April 30, down 6.6% to $30.3bn (£19.5bn), which all-but wiped out the sales increase at its US stores.