Wednesday 8 January 2014

Consumer mood - how Asda's Gimmick-free Christmas touched a reality-nerve

Never known for flights of fancy, Asda – and its parent – decided to focus on gimmick-free, simple everyday low price transparency for their customers and to hold their nerve when it came to the sales, a strategy that resulted in a record footfall over the Christmas period, and results to boot....

Whilst it could be said that a group with a turnover of $356bn and a 19.6% ROCE - unique in key retail - could afford to ‘ignore sales’ they have some of the hardest taskmasters on Wall Street and some financially-beefy shareholders working internally.

I shall never forget sitting in a 20-man Walmart merchandising strategy meeting in Bentonville - the only non-millionaire in the room - a couple of years before their UK entry, and being ‘scared’ by their degree of focus on the simple approach when most other retailers were developing ever-increasing levels of sophistication and are now struggling to hit 10-12% ROCE.

The oldies amongst us will remember that Asda began as Associated Dairies and was launched by 'two milkmen that got lucky' (thanks Tony), and it has never really wavered from the simple approach to business perfectly suited to the current mood...

I am convinced that what we saw in Asda’s version of Christmas was the fundamental Walmart approach adapted for a company fully tuned - except for the big stores! - to the realities of the UK economy.

We can only recommend having the courage to join them at the realistic, basics coal-face, our minds and offerings stripped to the essentials of demonstrable value-for-money… It works!

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