Source: Asda

The speed of the Issa brothers’ planned rollout of the range has stunned suppliers

Asda has given its own-label suppliers just four weeks to support the launch of a major price repositioning under the Issa brothers, featuring the rollout of a new budget range called Just Essentials by Asda.

The 300-product range will span across products ranging from beans, bread, crisps and biscuits as well as non-food products such as washing-up liquid and powder.

Asda described it as a “bold” move to target price-sensitive customers facing a cost-of-living crisis and stressed it wanted to emphasise the quality as well as competitiveness of its range.

However, the speed of the planned rollout of the range has stunned suppliers, some of whom have questioned whether it is possible to launch such a proposition with only a matter of weeks’ notice.

In a presentation to suppliers seen by The Grocer, the supermarket also revealed plans for a wider reset which will see a major range simplification – even though it already slashed thousands of SKUs since the pandemic began – as well as the rollout of its new Asda Rewards loyalty card following trials in 16 stores.

The moves follow claims that Asda has lost its price competitiveness and been overshadowed by the discounters as well as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, with critics including celebrity chef Jack Monroe.

Asda said it would be contacting suppliers about the launch of the new range and holding talks with own-label suppliers about how it will impact on their product line-up.

Experts predict the new range will replace Asda’s Smart Price range, echoing Tesco’s move to phase out its Everyday Value range, although that was replaced by a house of tertiary own-label brands.

“Just Essentials by Asda is an extensive new range of over 300 products. It’s a bold, upbeat and positive brand,” said Asda VP of own-brand Sam Dickson in the presentation.

“The plan was to launch this through May, June and July,” she added. “But we want to do it faster because it’s really important for our customers that we are with them all the way.”

As well as challenging suppliers to respond to its new range launch, it has also kicked off a wider range review across all categories as well as a simplified promotions strategy.

Dickson said the reset would “further simplify our range and modulars”, ensuring there were no more than three iterations of the same product and no product promoted more than three times in any 12-month period.

“The timeline is rapid, delivering a minimum of two reviews a week between April and August,” she said.

The Issas are also planning an overhaul of stores.

Asda has already relaunched its fresh produce department, including the announcement first made last year that it was bringing in 250 dedicated greengrocers. Dickson told suppliers it planned to overhaul its meat, fish and poultry sections starting in May and revamp its bakery offer in September.

She said the ranges would be relaunched to “improve product quality, packaging and brand positioning”.

Asda also revealed it is to ramp up the trial of its Asda Rewards loyalty cards, currently in 16 stores, to 50 stores, with plans to expand across all stores by the autumn.

Last month, The Grocer revealed Asda was asking suppliers to stump up six-figure sums for access to its new Customer Insights Platform powered by Quantium, which will use data from the loyalty card programme.

Dickson also told suppliers the range review would “remove duplication” by simplifying its range and pricing points.

“Pricing should be stable, intuitive and never out of whack,” she said.

Ged Futter, founder of The Retail Mind and a former senior Asda buyer, said the timescales being suggested to suppliers for such major changes was “unrealistic” especially in the midst of supply chain disruption caused by the war in Ukraine and other logistics issues.

“It’s completely and utterly unrealistic,” he said. “Bringing these changes into store within four weeks is just never going to happen. I’m not doubting that they should be addressing the price perception, but you have to do it properly if it’s not going to work.”

Asda declined to comment.