n Asda has built itself a king size test bed for the new concepts incorporated in its biggest store so far. Siân Harrington reports With 100,500 sq ft of sales space, the £45m Asda Wal-Mart supercentre in Eastlands, east Manchester, is the company's largest to date. It also has the biggest non-food offer ­ 60% of space compared with 30% in a typical Asda supermarket; the widest range of departments in any Asda store; and acts as a test bed for a number of new ideas. The store attracted 80,000 people in its first week (it opened on June 17) and, in just seven days, takings reached seven digits. As an Asda spokesperson puts it: "That's equivalent to our prime Christmas figure." This goes some way to answering those detractors who have questioned whether the catchment area can provide the sort of numbers Asda requires to make the store a success. The surrounding area of Beswick is one of the poorer parts of Manchester. However, the store is one of a number of projects planned to regenerate the area. Initial curiosity, the exposure gained through Asda's sponsorship of the Commonwealth Games, and a location a mere stone's throw from the main stadium have all helped the store's early performance. The retailer has milked this for all it's worth ­ a massive Asda banner cloaking a gas tower on the site is impossible to miss, while the fact that the store had to close early during the Games' opening ceremony was compensated for by flinging the doors open again once it had finished at midnight. But it is the new initiatives that Asda will be closely watching. The company's first nail bar offers a range of services starting at £3 and the first health and well-being centre brings pharmacy, health, beauty, videos, candles, books and jewellery together. Customers can have anything from weight and height checks to screening for diabetes and cholesterol. A touchscreen kiosk is available for those customers seeking self-help. According to a spokesman, 185 customers presented prescriptions in the first week, thinking the centre was a dispensing pharmacy. "We have taken their details and found that people came from as far as Halifax and Leyland in Lancashire. We are using this information to show that the demand is there and that it is not hitting the neighbourhood pharmacies," he says. The store also has the first dedicated pet centre, which includes pet toys and a free telephone helpline to enable customers to speak directly to a veterinary assistant. One of the most interesting developments is in merchandising. With 2,000 non-food lines that are, so far, unique to this store, new thinking was required. The central aisle comprises large displays featuring lines such as soft furnishings, while lounge, kitchen and office furniture is merchandised in roomsets. New ranges include conservatory furniture, dried flowers and a 21-strong white goods offer including fridges, freezers and washing machines from names such as Candy and Hotpoint. In food there are signs of Asda's project to offer depth of range through a better use of space. Two fixtures are given over to organic and the comprehensive ethnic selection sees the more usual Japanese and Indian ranges joined by the retailer's first Irish range. As if this store wasn't enough for Beswick, there is a further 30,000 sq ft of space for future development. {{FEATURES }}