Asda 'at forefront' of grocery click & collect

Last week's announcement from UK supermarket Asda that it is looking to update store structures to "more accurately reflect the roles colleagues are now being asked to do" is a positive and necessary move, according to industry analysts Essential Retail contacted this week.

The move by Asda to look at how different structures could help get more colleagues on to the shop floor and free up time for growth areas such as home shopping and eCommerce, are being viewed as way of keeping the grocer ahead of its rivals in terms of click & collect options for customers.

Tests in 20 'Hot House' stores of various sizes and formats have been undertaken over the past six months, resulting in a proposed new structure for stores that removes some existing department manager roles and creates new deputy manager, trading manager and section manager roles, as well as adding section leader roles.

Unlike its major rivals in the UK supermarket industry – Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons – Asda does not have a dedicated convenient store estate – and therefore is seemingly recognising the benefits of optimising its multichannel operations.

Bryan Roberts, director of retail Insights at Kantar Retail, said: "Wrongly portrayed as job cuts – it is roles rather than people that are being placed in consultation – the Asda restructure highlights two overriding imperatives that are facing Asda and its competitors: the need to win at multichannel and the need to create the best possible service on the shop floor.

"Asda has been leading the way in click & collect, hotly pursued by Tesco, and its innovations such as tube station sites, lockers and drive-through mean that Asda is at the forefront of exploring the potential of click & collect for grocery."

Roberts argued that click & collect has the capacity to enhance profitability and customer convenience, adding that "Asda's strides in this direction are positioning it well for the future".

The proposals at Asda, which announced last week that like-for-like sales for the 15 weeks to 20 April were up 0.1% year on year, involve around 4,100 managers across Asda's stores. Under the new structure, up to 5,000 roles will be created to produce a net benefit of around 900 new roles.

Commenting at the results presentation in London, chief operating officer Mark Ibbotson referred to changes the wider retail is currently experiencing when explaining the reasons behind the consultation period.

He said: "Whilst people will always be at the heart of our business, the jobs we were asking our colleagues to do five years ago – when we just operated shops and had a small home shopping business – are not the jobs they are actually doing today, and not the jobs we need to empower them to do over the next five years if we are to continue to grow and deliver our strategy for growth."

Asda announced last summer that it was trialling a same-day click & collect service, becoming the first supermarket in the UK to offer such a proposition, and it was also the first grocer in the country to provide food collection lockers at London Underground stations.

Michael Macdonald, retail analyst at industry research group Verdict, said: "The fastest growing channels in the food & grocery market are online and convenience, therefore Asda is right to instigate this restructuring in order to secure a successful online future.

"Asda must continue to invest in click & collect sites away from stores as well, like it has done with opening at train stations to ensure that it remains competitive. While there is likely to be some fallout from the restructuring, it is set to create 900 additional jobs that will help make its online operation more efficient, ensuring it keeps in touch with its main rivals."