SUPERMARKET GIANT Asda’s loyal customers will, on the whole, be relieved that the leading retailer – founded in Leeds exactly 70 years ago – will not now be swallowed up by high street rival Sainsbury’s after the proposed £12bn merger was vetoed by the competition watchdog.
Even though the two supermarkets had maintained that prices would fall as a result of the new company’s ability to source produce more cheaply, and reduce overheads, the Competition and Markets Authority concluded that the deal would, in fact, lead to the cost of food, and goods, going up.
And while the immediate focus will be on Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe who was caught on camera saying ‘we’re in the money’ shortly after the deal was revealed, the key question here is about Asda’s future after the CMA identified more than 500 areas of the country where competition would be diminished as a result of the creation of a supermarket titan bigger than Tesco.
Asda’s longstanding headquarters in Leeds are located on the proposed route of the HS2 high-speed rail line and both staff – and customers – will be looking for clarity, at the earliest opportunity, that the firm intends to remain loyal to its home city.
Not only do HQ staff contribute significantly to the Yorkshire economy, and support important initiatives like the Leeds Digital Festival for the benefit of the wider community, but Asda’s continuing presence here does much to enhance the prestige of the area and helps to attract additional inward investment.
Yet the fact remains that decisions on future strategy, and investment, are matters for Asda’s parent company Walmart which is based in the United States. Let us hope that it now gives current Asda boss Roger Burnley, a proud Yorkshireman, the scope to save jobs and grow this business here in Yorkshire and beyond.