Asda is hoping to turn around its Christmas fortunes by introducing new premium food and general merchandise lines.

Last year, Asda saw the slowest growth of the big four over Christmas as its market share dropped 0.1 percentage points to 16.9% [Kantar].

Asda blamed this on the snow, but also failed to cater for shoppers who traded up despite the recession, according to Verdict.

"Asda doesn't have the quality perception or premium credentials," said Verdict analyst Malcolm Pinkerton. "Christmas is a time that people will trade up and if Asda can't cater for that they'll go elsewhere. Last year Asda shoppers were trading up to Sainsbury's."

"We didn't do particularly well last year," admitted bakery buyer Kerri Fidler. "This year will have more of a wow factor."

Asda will focus on table-ready indulgent desserts such as sherry trifle gateau, deep-filled cheesecake and profiterole-topped chocolate cake. In meat, the retailer said it would improve its convenience and locally sourced products. It is also introducing a part-deboned turkey joint with fruity stuffing and a bacon lattice and a 21-day aged rib of beef, which will be regionally sourced. As a "more substantial alternative to ­­a meat joint" Asda will sell a 'smoked salmon joint' two Hebredian salmon ­fillets wrapped in smoked salmon.

There will also be more licensed kids gifts on sale, focusing on Hello Kitty and Toy Story, said season gifts buyer Erin Lacey.

For adults Asda is promising premium items such as digital radios and a world beer box set. "We still have key ­volume lines like novelty mugs but we've put a lot ­­­­of work into gourmet gifts that still represent value," said Lacey.

Fibre-optic Christmas trees are returning, and a small pink tree for girls, which sold well last year, is being scaled up to full size.

"It's a sensible strategy for them to try to hammer home the premium and ­locally sourced message, but it will take a while to change the consumer mindset," said Pinkerton.

Read more
Asda plans for a less congested Christmas shopping experience (19 June 2010)
The penny drops: an interview with Asda's Rick Bendel (8 May 2010)
Hot Topic: Rumours of Asda being ‘in trouble’ after a slow Christmas are over the top (20 February 2010)