Food and general merchandise group Asda has launched a Christmas customer loyalty initiative as big retailers make an early play for seasonal spend.

In a departure from its traditional tactics, Walmart-owned Asda today unveiled ‘A big thank you from Asda’, a programme rewarding customers with money-off vouchers for a variety of top-selling products.

Shoppers spending £40 will receive vouchers worth £40 in return. The first book of vouchers, with offers on lines such as mince pies and steak, will be redeemable between November 1 and 14. A second book of vouchers will be issued from November 8, and can be used for reductions on a new mix of own-label, branded and seasonal product” between November 15 and 28. Customers will earn a voucher book every time they spend £40 in one transaction in stores or online.

Last Christmas Asda was perceived to have suffered in contrast to Tesco and Sainsbury’s which were both able to leverage their loyalty and reward schemes – Asda has no equivalent.

Christmas competition is already hotting up for this year. Last week Tesco trumpeted that it would save customers £1.3bn  this Christmas and will run a Clubcard-related voucher scheme. Morrisons will again run a “stamp and save” scheme.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: “At a time of trading up and limited appetite for irrationality on the margin front, the utilisation of loyalty cards, coupons and now voucher books seems to have taken a step up – certainly the Asda initiative is a new addition to the loyalty and promotion fray.”