Asda's new online price guarantee tool will free it from defending its core low price message and mark the first of five major initiatives during 2010 to develop the supermarket as a "price-plus player", The Grocer can reveal.

Asda's Price Guarantee website, launched on Wednesday, encourages shoppers to compare the price of a basket of branded and own-label items bought at Asda with the retailer's three main rivals. If the basket was cheaper at Tesco, Morrisons or Sainsbury, Asda issues an e-voucher for the difference, plus a penny.

Powered by the transparency provided by the website would "end the phoney price war of promotions", said CEO Andy Bond.

And chief marketing officer Rick Bendel, speaking exclusively to The Grocer, promised four further "major initiatives" in the next year, to address the quality of its fresh food and private label; to "change the nature of how customers can be compensated for lack of availability"; to improve service, navigation and queue management; and to create "a new type of retail eventing".

Bendel said the initiatives would make Asda even more relevant. "I want to say OK, let's talk about quality, eventing and service, because the price war is dead now."

Asda had been working on the price guarantee website for 14 months, said Bendel, and calculated that it would be cheapest on 96% of baskets.

"New technology has allowed us to do something we wished we could have done 20 years ago. Once and for all we can end the debate about who's cheapest," he said. "The days of spin doctoring and 'trust me this is really good' are gone. It gives us such a major opportunity to really make changes."

However, not everyone was convinced that Asda had fired the final shot in supermarket pricing wars. "Andy Bond called promotions weapons of mass distraction, but on the day new trade figures show Asda food sales tanking, this gimmick is the mother of all distractions," said one industry insider.

Read more
Is price guarantee a bluff or did Asda just play a blinder? (1 May 2010)
Asda 'guarantees' lowest prices with online shopping tool (28 April 2010)