Asda is consulting on head office jobs as retail goes through a generational shift towards online and away from stores.
Up to 300 jobs are reported to be under threat, at a time when more shoppers are turning to websites to buy rather than visiting their local store. The speed of change appeared to step up a gear over Christmas, when all sales growth was ascribed to mobile commerce, and today fresh figures showed that footfall to the high street and to shopping centres fell compared to the same time last year.
“It’s well documented that in recent years customers have radically changed the way they shop,” the supermarket said in a statement today. “We were the first of the ‘big four’ to recognise this and launch a new strategy in 2013, yet the external pressures have accelerated at an increasingly rapid rate over the last 18 months.”
It said that it was talking to colleagues about what “major challenges and the certainty of permanent structural change” to the industry mean for them. It concluded: “We have made some difficult but necessary decisions but we must discuss these with our colleagues before we talk publicly.”
In December Asda, currently partway through a transformation plan designed to help it adapt to the way customers now want to shop, reported a 6% rise in online grocery sales in the latest quarter of its financial year, compared to the same time the previous year, while sales at George.com were up by 30%.
But that growth came as like-for-like sales fell by 4.5% in the 13 weeks to September 30 reflecting falling in-store trade. At the time, Andy Clarke, president and chief executive said: “It is a slow and costly process to reconfigure any business to meet fundamental challenges on this scale, but I’m clear that only businesses which are well-positioned, financially strong and able to efficiently deliver what their customers want can be successful in this environment.”
At the time the company said it was on track to deliver store efficiency savings of £100m in its current financial year. Since then it has unveiled its ToYou collection service, which enables shoppers at third-party brands, including launch partner Missguided, to pick up their online purchases in its stores. It hoped the move would bring an extra 40m extra visits a year to its stores by 2019. But today the company said external challenges were moving too quickly, and with that came job fears.