Asda boss says yes to relaxing Sunday trading

Kasmira Jefford
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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of Asda yesterday came out in support of Sunday opening hours being extended on a permanent basis, as the debate over Sunday trading continues to divide retailers.

Andy Clark said it was too early to say what the impact of the extra trading hours has had on sales but shoppers had welcomed the extra hours over the Olympics period.

“The fact that shoppers are telling us that they would enjoy the benefit of shopping outside of those six hours…then, giving customers greater accessibility to more hours across the trading week has got to be a benefit,” he said.

Retailers have been in two minds over the benefits of scrapping restrictions. Sainsbury’s chief Justin King argued that Sundays was “a special day” and that the current status quo was “a good British compromise.”

Clarke was speaking as the UK’s second largest supermarket revealed a slowdown in quarterly sales, which it attributed in part to the wettest spring in a century and the squeeze in shopper spending power.

But Asda said it was continuing to gain market share by lowering more product prices and “driving harder” on quality. The group has invested more than £113m over the past two years on improving the quality of its product ranges.

Finance director Rob McWilliam said the retailer was seeing a continued trend towards budgeting and that it was continuing to focus on low prices for basics like bread, mince and milk.

He also slammed the increasing number of promotions and “gimmicks” being used by rival retailers “to try and disguise a weak price position”, calling it unsustainable.

McWilliam said customers were being made to play “basket bingo” to try and qualify for certain promotional deals. While Asda has been offering deals the company said that it has been carrying out less promotions than its rivals.