Asda, the UK supermarket chain owned by US behemoth Wal-Mart, said today that it plans to open a raft of new stores and expand some of its existing operations, creating about 7,000 new jobs this year. We may spend most of our time reading about job cuts these days, but it seems to be a very different story at our big supermarkets – Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose have also announced big hiring plans. At this rate, we could all have slightly chastened bankers packing our groceries by the time the year is out...
Asda said it was planning to extend 15 of its existing stores and open 14 new ones, which would create just over half of these jobs. The rest will come from the expansion of its home shopping unit (which is taking on an extra 2,000 people) and from normal organic growth. And just to give it even more brownie points with the government, it plans to give about 3,000 of these new jobs to the long-term unemployed – while it will also work with government agency Remploy to help more disabled people get into the workplace. All very admirable.
It can afford to do this because its sales are still rising, despite the general slowdown in consumer spending. We don’t know exactly how well it’s doing, because its revenues are swallowed up into the global Wal-Mart empire, but market researchers seem to think that it came second only to Morrisons in the Christmas sales war. When CEO Andy Bond took over in 2005, Asda was nervously looking over its shoulder at Sainsbury’s – now it’s a clear second behind Tesco, benefiting from its positioning as the cheapest of the four big supermarket chains (or so Bond says).
What’s more, Asda also has a pretty good reputation as an employer. Many of Britain’s top retail execs cut their teeth there, including Sainsbury’s Justin King, Boots’ Richard Baker, Iceland’s Andy Clarke and Matalan’s Phil Dutton (another illustrious alumnus, ex-HBOS chief Andy Hornby, has seen his star wane a little recently). ‘Our track record of recruiting and retaining people is second to none, which is why we have the lowest turnover and most motivated workforce in British retail,’ Asda’s ever-combative commander Bond boasted today (this is the man who recently challenged MT to an arm-wrestle when we went to interview him). So all those displaced City types could do a lot worse...
Click here to read our interview with Asda’s Andy Bond, from the November issue of MT.
In today's bulletin:
BSkyB gets 171,000 extra customers for Christmas
Philip Yea quits as 3i portfolio loses £864m
Asda provides ray of cheer with 7,000 new jobs
Car industry no lame duck, insists Lord Mandelson
Rich cool their jets at Davos