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Asda builds bridges between digital and the store as it invests to reflect changing shopping behaviour

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Asda this week unveiled plans that will see it further link digital and its stores, as it invests £600m into creating a customer experience that reflects the way people now buy.

The news came as the supermarket revealed a 1% fall in like-for-like sales for the year to December 31, and a 2.6% fall in the 12 weeks to January 4.

Andy Clarke, president and chief executive of Asda, said the retail market was “in one of its most challenging and changeable periods in history.” Nonetheless, he said, the business was firmly focused on delivering a long-term plan including £600m investment in and expanding and improving the Asda store estate.

That money will go into the opening of more than 150 remote click and collect sites, the remodelling of 62 stores to “reflect changing shopper habits”, as well as opening 17 new stores, including three in London, and 36 new petrol stations. The supermarket aims to grow its online operation from a £1bn business to a £3bn business by 2018.

The new-look stores, Asda said earlier this month, will bring in-store and online shopping together through in-store order points where customers can browse extended ranges of George, George Home and non-food products, as well as click and collect pick-up points in store, or outside the store in drive-through zones. New-look stores will feature a fast lane, signposted from the car park, enabling customers to pick up their online purchases quickly.

The investment comes after a year in which Asda opened 200 new click and collect sites, taking its total to 600 sites where customers can pick up their online orderes. The supermarket aims to operate 1,000 such sites by 2018. Asda says it more than doubled the number of pick-up points in London Underground stations since November 2013. It also acquired technology behind temperature controlled Intelligent Pods, and says the first will open in St Helen’s, near Liverpool, in the second quarter of this year.

Clarke said: “2014 saw an acceleration in the structural shift in the market and whilst we saw it brewing and put the right plan in place to address it – delivering solid wins for our business and keeping the ship steady in a turbulent market, the pace and scale of change has exceeded all expectations.

“The first year of our plan was very much about building the foundations – a work out to limber us up for what is to come in 2015 – by leading the price agenda in a deflationary market. We have a clear plan for sustainable, profitable growth and a proposition that gives customers what they want.

“I’m pleased that we can announce our continued investment in the UK with £600m for new and improved stores in 2015. With such a powerful force like Walmart behind us that fully supports our strategy, we’re in a unique position in a difficult market – a position of great strength.”

The supermarket is creating teams to support growth in sourcing and online grocery shopping across parent company Walmart’s international markets. Asda subsidiary International Procurement Ltd (IPL) will work closely with Asda’s online grocery team to share expertise and innovation in different markets with a view to creating a more simple, efficient and transparent supply chain.

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