Andy Clarke, president and CEO at Asda, said the supermarket wants to play in leading role in local communities.
Speaking at the 2011 IGD Convention, Clarke said: “I am setting a goal to be number one in the community in the UK. The more highly engaged we are, the better we do.
“The retailer that innovates around community and operates with the consent of community will be the retailer of the future.”
Clarke said Asda wanted to play a larger role locally in helping people live better in their communities. In the light of government cutbacks, business must play a more critical role than ever before, he said.
Clarke said that during the summer riots the focus was on protecting colleagues and stores but help with the clean was critical too since “people look to those they trust most for help and support”.
Clarke said customers expected Asda to help with issues such as youth unemployment, alcohol and drug misuse and antisocial behaviour.
“We cannot sit back and wait for the government to take action on addressing these issues,” he said.
Clarke revealed Asda has had no alcohol promotions in its foyers since April and was active in fundraising for charities including Breast Cancer.
Asda is using waste space in stores to create community centres, Clarke revealed.
An Asda cafe has been transformed into a kitchen for local shoppers to use, while dancing lessons and karate classes are being held in upstairs rooms.
Clarke said he was empowering staff to be ambassadors in the community and customers will reward businesses tuned into communities.
Asda is taking on the issue of youth unemployment, said Clarke. “The situation is getting worse but youth don’t want us to give up on them.
“Our youth want to work, earn a wage and feel proud in their everyday lives. We need to give them that opportunity,” he said.
On new ideas, Clarke said the instinct is to think of innovation to be about technology but retailers needed to be thinking about where consumers will shop, what they buy and how they will decide.
Clarke told delegates Asda is developing ideas by seeing things through the lives of its customers.
He said in the smaller Netto stores it has acquired it is offering the same low prices as in Asda stores. “The easy way would have been to charge shoppers a premium for smaller stores but we took the hard choice and deliver on what customers want,” he said
Clarke said the Netto conversion programme was on track and in budget and customers love it.
“More shoppers are buying more items with more colleagues serving them,” he said. “Not all shoppers want big, they want better, for example a full shop at a small store round the corner. The customer is in charge.”
Clarke added sales in converted Netto stores are up 45%.
In own label, Asda’s Chosen by You range is the UK’s fastest growing private label in the UK, said Clarke; and accounts for 40% of its food sales. Butcher’s Selection has recently been launched, while in Scotland Asda has launched Chosen by You as its first dedicated local own label.