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Asda on how customers responded to lockdown – and its plans to introduce social distancing technologies

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Asda today set out the extent to which it saw its sales rise as shoppers stocked up ahead of lockdown in the UK – and looked ahead to new technologies to support in-store social distancing.

The supermarket saw more than 3,500 online visits a minute in the week of March 18 as customers went online to buy ahead of the March 23 lockdown order. Demand for non-essential items, such as fashion, fuel and general merchandise fell at the same time, however, and the retailer had to close 33 Living Stores when non-essential retail stores were ordered to shut. Instead, its smaller shops benefited as customers opted to shop locally instead of travelling to shops. 

Like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, rose by 3.5% for the quarter to March 31, compared to a year earlier. However, falling demand for fuel meant that sales declined significantly in the UK in April, said Brett Biggs, chief financial officer of Asda’s parent company Walmart.

Roger Burnley, chief executive and president of Asda, said: “It has become increasingly clear that Covid-19 is set to be part of our lives for months to come and we know that customers have moved on from an initial worry about the virus, to more longer term concerns about the implications of lockdown on their family, wellbeing and finances. And, as more people return to work, they are juggling the demands of cooking more and having less time to shop for groceries. Our latest income tracker data shows that household incomes declined 0.6% in March, the first drop since 2017 and 90% of customers told us they are worried about a depression in the economy.

“Whilst safety is still a major focus for customers, three quarters tell us they are also increasingly concerned about the price of groceries and are looking for value – and we can reassure them that Asda will meet their needs on both. However long Covid-19 is with us, we will continue to offer great value to customers, as well as investing in doing the right things to protect our customers, our colleagues and our communities – and fulfil our vital role in feeding the nation.”

Asda said it was now investing in longer-term measures to support social distancing in stores. It is trialling a virtual queuing system at its Middleton store that enables shoppers to log in to the queue remotely and wait in their cars before they enter the shop. 

Over the course of the lockdown, Asda has expanded its home shopping capacity from 450,000 delivery slots a week to 725,000. Its food box delivery service for vulnerable customers now has a capacity of 10,000 boxes a day and the supermarket is offering regular home delivery slots of more than 150,000 people. 

Asda is a Top50 retailer in RXUK Top500 research.

Image courtesy of Asda

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