In the wake of Asda’s seventh consecutive quarter of falling sales, the grocer’s boss, Andy Clarke, hit the proverbial nail on the head.
The supermarket giant has adopted a new approach to marketing, Clarke said in a short statement following its 5.7% sales decline, which aims to “show customers a new Asda face” – something it desperately needs to do if it is to transform its fortunes.
Those efforts to reconnect with its core shopper base, fronted by new chief customer officer Andy Murray, will aim to “showcase the values on which we have built the business over the years and reinforce our everyday low price value proposition”.
The first part of that phrase is crucial.
Asda’s central messaging may concern price but, as a retailer, it stands for so much more than that – or at least has done in the past.
But in the fierce battle against German discount duo Aldi and Lidl, Asda has allowed the noise surrounding price to drown out its other important values, resulting in the grocer slumping to its “nadir”.
In fact, communication surrounding its depth of range, customer service levels, largely convenient store locations and ever-improving in-store services and concessions – such as its pilot with Decathlon – has been virtually non-existent.
That’s why, while it may be Clarke sitting on the throne, it is Murray who could well hold the keys to the kingdom.
As Retail Remedy’s Phil Dorrell put it: “Asda does offer a lot more than price; it just it hasn’t shouted about it in the media or in store.
“With sound store positions and a broad offer – if unexciting and too low-end – Asda has the ability to bounce back. But a blinkered price strategy won’t be the answer.”
However, it is no use marketing the life out of stores that are succeeding when it comes to price but lagging behind its rivals on execution.
The Asda stores I have visited recently have been in serious need of some TLC to bring them into line with 21st-century shopping habits, which demand convenience, differentiation and value.
Contrary to those primary desires, Asda’s fresh offer was lingering at the back of the store, the food-to-go proposition had been tucked away virtually un-signposted in a corner, availability on certain fruit, vegetable and ambient ranges was average at best and the space given to its impressive George clothing and homeware lines was minimal in comparison to the non-food push rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s have demonstrated in their supermarkets.
That is where the other aspect of Asda’s 18-month Project Renewal transformation strategy comes into play, with Clarke insisting that a “comprehensive programme to re-lay and update our stores to improve the customer experience, reduce complexity and streamline ranges” is now under way.
Improving the layout of stores, investing further in price and availability and driving customer service is a fine art to perfect, but it is far from rocket science.
Clarke and his team have the knowledge, expertise and deep pockets of Walmart required to successfully refurb the 95 larger stores they are initially focusing on during the course of its ‘Renewal’ plan.
But throughout that crucial period for the embattled grocer, the onus will be on Murray to shout louder about those changes and do enough to convince shoppers to give Asda a second chance.