Asda is set for a tentative step into the convenience market with the opening of two forecourt stores in the next few months, The Grocer can reveal.
The first store, a former Total, is scheduled to open in Sale, Greater Manchester on 28 November. It will offer petrol and a range of grocery and non-food, including newspapers, milk, snacks and flowers.
It will also operate as Asda’s first standalone Click & Collect hub, allowing customers to pull into the forecourt to collect orders made online, rather than head to a superstore.
Asda will also convert a Jet petrol station opposite its head office - ideally placed for the retailer to experiment with the format. It is scheduled to open on 21 January.
A spokeswoman for Asda said it currently had no plans for a wider roll out of convenience stores and would not be launching a new fascia for the forecourts, which will carry the standard Asda branding.
She added that the Leeds site would focus on supplying petrol to staff and suppliers, while the Sale forecourt promoted Click & Collect.
“The filling station opposite Asda House is an opportunity to give 2,500 head office colleagues who drive the opportunity to access fuel at the lowest price,” she said. “It will practically pay for itself in terms of savings in colleague fuel expenses.”
“In Sale we are less interested in the retail sales onsite, and more interested in creating a collection point that has high volumes of traffic. We are already utilising petrol forecourts attached to existing stores as Click & Collect pick up points, and we are testing this concept in a different way.”
Asda is now “rolling out pick up points nationwide” The retailer is aiming to have full nationwide coverage in place sometime next year.
“As a trial, forecourts are a good move for Asda,” said Investec analyst Dave McCarthy. “This was how Tesco Express started, opening alongside filling stations before developing into a free-standing operation.
“It is a natural move for Asda to start off withClick & Collect as an integral part of the business, because they don’t have as many stores as rivals.”
Last year Asda completed the conversion of 136 smaller format Netto stores but has no stores under 3,000 sq ft.
C-stores are becoming increasingly important for the big retailers. Sainsbury’s cited convenience as a key driver in its 2.5% half year sales growth this week. Morrisons CEO Dalton Philips said its late arrival into convenience was creating a headwind for growth.