Asda’s commitment to non-food is demonstrated again in the electricals sector where its sound and vision department alone includes about 80 products.
The chain entered the category in the mid-1990s when it began stocking a small range of 14ins televisions. By the turn of the century its range had broadened to include products from companies such as Schneider and Pacific.
It added Philips products three years ago and Sharp goods in 2001, and other household brand names such as Sony, Panasonic and JVC arrived on the shelves this year.
Value sales across Asda’s electricals category are now four times that recorded in 2000. This growth has been boosted significantly by the decision two years ago to start selling DVD players.
Many products are sourced direct from the manufacturers which appreciate the volumes a chain like Asda can shift. Suppliers will produce exclusive models for the company which, again, helps it to keep prices down. Parent Wal-Mart has offered Asda’s UK buying team advice on which products to introduce, although different technical requirements, such as different voltages, means sourcing goods on a global basis is not straightforward.
General manager of electronics at Asda, David Stewart, says it is wrong to suggest that the type of customer who buys electrical items from a supermarket is simply looking for a cheap television.
“The success of brands such as Sony and Panasonic in our stores shows people are prepared to purchase higher-value items and new technology at Asda,” he says.
In November Asda began selling PURE Digital Evoke-1 radios for £89.82 in 10 of its supercentres. These stores are also selling recordable DVD players and 28ins-widescreen televisions.
Asda is also considering expanding its range of white goods. It has a limited range in the 10 supercentres, and Stewart is monitoring closely how sales perform. This year Asda has removed its 3-2-1 year guarantee policy which Stewart says confused consumers. It has been replaced by a 28-day no-quibble exchange or refund offer. “Many customers did not understand the true value of the 3-2-1 warranty, whereas we've found price savings are much more visible and clearly understood,” he says.
Stewart insists Asda is able to compete with the specialists despite staff having less in-depth technical knowledge.
“Many customers find buying electrical items in Asda a much less intimidating experience than purchasing from a specialist shop. And they have trust in the Asda brand.”
Merchandising large electrical items can also be a problem for grocers who must maximise their use of space.
Asda will have a display model for most lines with the boxed products stacked nearby. Staff are available to help customers load items into their trolleys and their cars.