Imagine getting an email from the bank saying that, as you’ve only got £50 in your account, it’s not worth showing you its full range of services. Or a train company deciding that, because you paid the lowest fare, it won’t tell you what’s in the dining car.

Imagine getting an email from the bank saying that, as you’ve only got £50 in your account, it’s not worth showing you its full range of services. Or a train company deciding that, because you paid the lowest fare, it won’t tell you what’s in the dining car.

You’d be outraged. It would be snobbery of the worst kind. And yet that’s how some retailers treat their customers.

One chief executive recently admitted his company uses checkout data collected by store cards to put customers into social segments. If they buy lower-price products the store doesn’t market higher-quality products to them. It begs the question, who deserves quality?

As the leader of a supermarket that prides itself on having the cheapest weekly grocery shop, I know low prices and high quality aren’t mutually exclusive.

Two years ago we made a bold decision. Rather than spend months behind closed doors reformulating products and millions of pounds on branding to make them look nice, we invited the British public to taste test each of our 3,000 own-label products.

If they met with their approval they were in the range, if they didn’t it was back to the drawing board.

It started a revolution that has led to us involving customers in every important decision we make. They’re the experts, not us. Who are we to tell them a pork pie needs more filling and thinner pastry, or sticky toffee pudding needs to be stickier?

In two years, more than 550,000 individual taste tests have been completed, all overseen by an independent watchdog. Consider the impact if every industry, from energy to transport, from housing to finance, put customers first.

The economic outlook is uncertain, to say the least. Just surviving is costing more while wages are worth less.

So there’s no better time for Great Britain plc to inspire consumer confidence by lowering prices and raising standards. The days of premiumisation - swanky products at swanky prices - are over.

It’s time to make every customer feel special, not just those lucky ones who can afford to pay more. Segmenting customers reopens class divides I hoped we’d seen the last of.

Do retailers have the right to dictate who gets what? No, it’s our job to democratise shopping. In two years we have invested £113m in developing our own-label food ranges, Chosen By You, Butcher’s Selection, Smartprice and Extra Special. The impact has been felt more widely than by our customers alone. The entire supermarket industry has been forced to raise its game now that Asda is as serious about quality as it is about low prices.

My aim is to deliver on food what we have successfully delivered on clothing. Twenty-one years ago no one believed a supermarket could sell good-quality, stylish clothes at low prices. Yet George at Asda is now the UK’s biggest children’s retailer with stores opening across the globe.

I want to see everyone, regardless of their budget, enjoying high-quality products at low prices. That’s a challenge I throw down to every business leader in the land.

  • Andy Clarke, chief executive, Asda