An extraordinary war of words has broken out between Asda and Sainsbury over which of them has the best IT systems.
The row was sparked by Angela Morrison, Sainsbury’s new director of information systems, who joined the chain from Asda in March.
In the latest edition of the Sainsbury house journal, Morrison said Sainsbury’s IT had the upper hand when it came to adapting to changing customer needs and the market.
She said that while the implementation of Wal-Mart’s processes had initially given Asda a huge advantage, it was now feeling the downside of scale. “Wal-Mart was able to put standard systems in place right across the world. However, while this was a great benefit for Asda at the time, now it means they have constraints on how quickly they can change. We have the chance to move more quickly than them and take advantage.”
A spokesman for Asda denounced the comments by Morrison as nonsense, claiming the situation was the reverse. “When it came to chip and PIN, for example, we converted our stores faster than any other retailer because of Wal-Mart’s systems. They have a flexibility built in so we’re able to adapt to changing needs.”
Although Sainsbury is now
trialling plasma screens in stores, Morrison added, most of her work was geared to simplifying processes. “Soon payslips will be printed centrally; we’re automating price and ticket updates to our scales; and we’re working at making it much quicker for colleagues to log IT requests. At the moment it’s less about looking flashy and more about making it simple.”
Morrison, who has responsibility for all the computer systems, including tills, handsets and telephones, said Sainsbury had begun to roll out a new Retail Stock System, an improved method of checking stock levels.
Meanwhile, Sainsbury is also introducing new in-store initiatives, such as Asda-style “huddles” for every member of staff on each shift in an effort to motivate workers at all levels to get behind the turnaround plan.
The five-minute meetings update staff on key information and targets for the day, as part of a new communications plan.
Rachel Barnes