Asda could axe hundreds of store staff and slash the working hours of thousands more as it battles to cut costs.

The supermarket giant has begun consultation with 3,257 workers in 18 of its underperforming stores, which have been identified as being overstaffed amid consumers’ switch to online shopping, self-service checkouts or to rival grocers. 

Asda is also assessing staffing levels in 59 more of its supermarkets. It is understood the Walmart-owned grocer is not seeking to cut jobs in those stores, but feels it is currently scheduling staff to work at the wrong times of day and wants employees to be able to work in different departments when required.

Asda has spoken to store managers in the 18 underperforming supermarkets, informing them of new business plans that include a reduction in the number of staff hours worked.

The retailer said it cannot rule out redundancies, but said the eventual number of job losses is expected to be in the hundreds.

It comes as Asda’s biggest rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s also look to slash costs amid the onslaught of discount duo Aldi and Lidl, the switch to online and the perfect storm of cost headwinds created by the slump in the value of the pound, increases in business rates and the implementation of the national living wage.

Tesco is axing 2,300 staff this year, across its head office and with the closure of a call centre in Cardiff.

Meanwhile Sainsbury’s is expected to cut 1,000 roles after drafting in McKinsey to devise a staff reduction plan.

Performance ‘behind expectations’

News of Asda’s jobs consultation emerged just a week after it posted its worst annual figures since being bought by Walmart.

The supermarket giant’s pre-tax profit dropped 18.8% to £791.7m on sales of £21.6bn. Like-for-likes tumbled 5.7%.

Asda admitted the performance was “behind expectations”.

The grocer’s boss Sean Clarke, who was drafted in to replace Andy Clarke at the helm just over a year ago, has invested in price, quality and improving customer service after falling behind its main rivals.

It is due to reveal second quarter results when Walmart updates next week.

An Asda spokesman said: “We are currently in discussions with a number of our stores about changes that are needed to the number of hours required to run that store for our customers.

“It is common practice for a supermarket to need to make changes to hours based on the changing shopping habits of customers.

“We understand that any conversations about change are unsettling but it is always our upmost priority to find alternative roles or working patterns for impacted colleagues.”

The 18 stores affected by Asda’s changes are:

  • Arnold, Nottinghamshire
  • Boston, Lincolnshire
  • Broadstairs, Kent
  • Burnden Park, Bolton
  • Crewe
  • Basildon Eastgate
  • Eastleigh, Hampshire
  • Halifax
  • Harpurhey, Manchester
  • Mansfield
  • Minworth, near Birmingham
  • Norwich
  • Oadby, near Leicester
  • Radcliffe, near Bury
  • Sinfin, Derby
  • Spennymoor, Co Durham
  • Thurmaston, Leicestershire
  • West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire