More than a year into an 18-month turnaround plan and it would appear that Asda is no clearer on what it needs to get more shoppers through its doors after it posted its ninth consecutive quarterly sales drop.
Sales for the Walmart-owned business, excluding fuel, slipped 5.8% in the three months to the end September. While an improvement on the previous quarter’s 7.5% decline, the most recent quarter offers little optimism that the business has settled on a winning strategy yet despite much change this year.
Andy Murray replaced Barry Williams as the supermarket’s top marketer, joining from Walmart where he was vice president of creative and customer experience in February. He wasted little time settling in to the role and within months had replaced VCCP with Saatchi & Saatchi, where he previously worked. The potential of the union was naturally talked up at the time but it appears it has had little impact on the way shoppers perceive the brand so far.
Asda finds itself falling further behind the sales and market share gains of its rivals, heaping pressure on its attempt to capitalise on the key Christmas trading period. The embattled supermarket’s 'Christmas made better' campaign has taken a different approach to its competitors, with a series of short sound-bite ads each promoting a product or range worth heading to Asda for over the festive period.
Given today’s results, the business will be hoping for a 'Christmas Made Better', mused Phil Dorrell, partner at retail consultants Retail Remedy. He branded the supermarket’s Christmas push “almost old-fashioned but effective and memorable which is really the point isn't it”.
He continued: It's early days in what has become a year of board room musical chairs, but it is refreshing to see new appointments being made outside of Walmart to bring a new perspective particularly when that experience has been acquired at Co-op, John Lewis and Sainsbury. This might actually be the trigger for change, finally.
Despite the severity of its ongoing sales decline Walmart chief executive Brett Biggs remains hopeful that the supermarket’s fortunes will improve.
“The key priority remains driving an improved customer experience and building sales momentum by simplifying the offer, improving product availability and making strategic investments in service and price,” said Biggs
Asda unveiled its ambitious Project Renewal turnaround plan last October, believing it would take 18 months to achieve its goal. While there are still a few months to go, more price cuts, job cuts and a new marketing strategy have failed to have the desired effect to date.