Asda's Extra Special to push into non-food lines

Asda is to extend its Extra Special premium range into general merchandise in its continuing strategy to push beyond grocery.

The Wal-Mart-owned super-market will launch an Extra Special homewares range over the next six months, starting with bathroom items and followed by home furnishings, accessories and bedding. There will be more than 150 lines by the end of the year.

The retailer claims that prices will be up to 65 per cent cheaper than similar products from rivals such as Marks & Spencer and Next.

Extra Special food made its debut in 2000. The range now comprises 400 lines and is growing at a rate of 70 per cent year on year.

Tesco extended its Finest label into homewares, soft furnishings, and health and beauty last year, and is testing it in men's clothing.

Verdict Research chairman Richard Hyman said: 'We are starting to see the introduction of 'good, better, best' from the supermarkets in non-food. This is not rocket science, but a logical progression.'

Separately, last Monday Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott spoke of his vision of huge European expansion. He said that Wal-Mart wants to be present in every European country in the long-term, and that Asda could expand outside the UK. Wal-Mart already has a presence in Germany.

- Asda's clothing business, George, has established a UK-based global team to take the brand to 5,000 Wal-Mart stores worldwide.

The venture will create 100 jobs over the next two years. Leicestershire-based George is also considering opening a subsidiary office in London.