Asda planning 'several' new stores across Northern Ireland

Asda CEO Andy Clarke, centre, with Michael McCallion, Asda senior buying manager Scotland and NI, left and Tim McVicker, Forest Feast

ASDA is considering "several sites" across the north as it seeks to eat into its competitors' market share, the grocery chain's chief executive told the Irish News yesterday.

Andy Clarke was in the retailer's Dundonald store to mark 10 years since its arrival in Northern Ireland.

The company, part of the American Wal-Mart group, has 17 outlets in the north, but Mr Clarke said it had firm plans to grow that number.

Asda has plans to spend £3 million on its existing store network during 2016 on refurbishments and enhancing click-and-collect facilities.

The chain currently has roughly the same market share as Sainsbury but both retailers are a long way off industry leader Tesco.

But while Tesco has closed outlets in recent years and shelved plans for new openings, Asda is still seeking to grow its estate, Mr Clarke said.

Among immediate plans are to open a new £750,000 filling station at its Strabane operation.

"We have got a number of sites that we would like to open. They are still not concluded in terms of whether we get consents for them and where those opportunities come to fruition, we'll open new space," he said.

"We're working through refitting our existing estate and opening new stores when and where they're commercially viable."

Mr Clarke said that Asda, along with its rivals, were rethinking the style of its outlets in the wake of growing online sales and increased competition from discounters such as Lidl.

"I think the restructuring of the markets is changing, for everybody, how much new space they open," he said.

"We are fortunate not to have the impairment challenges that some of the others have had. Some of the other retailers have significantly written down the value of their estate and we haven't had to do that."

Asda arrived in Northern Ireland when it bought over Morrisons stores across the north.

Mr Clarke said the company sources more than £300m worth of food and drink from 105 producers across Ireland annually.

It has also launched a Supplier Development Academy which will see 11 food processing companies from the north participate in a six-month programme to boost innovation and generate sales.

“As part of our commitment to Year of Food & Drink, we’re proud to support our suppliers through this unique academy which is entirely focused on growth," said Mr Clarke.

"When we first ran this initiative in 2012, participating suppliers achieved a combined sales increase of 20 per cent and we hope to replicate this in 2016 – particularly by helping these suppliers gain more shelf space in our GB stores.

“This also reflects how we are responding to our NI customers who have sent the clear message that they want to be able to buy the local products that they trust and enjoy."

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