Retailer steps up expansion plans, with most developments planned for the south of England

Asda has bucked the trend set by the rest of the big four supermarket chains this year by scaling up its expansion plans for the next five years.

The grocer, which is owned by global retail giant Walmart, announced this week it plans to open 40 superstores, 100 supermarkets, 150 petrol station forecourt shops and 1,000 click and collect points over the period.

Asda’s development push will be focused on the south of England where it has fewer stores, with two-thirds of openings set for the south-east, London, Cornwall and Devon.

Speaking at a launch event for the expansion strategy at Asda’s Clapham Junction store, also attended by prime minister David Cameron, Walmart’s president and chief executive Doug McMillon said Walmart is “committed to investing in the UK”, describing the country as a “great place to do business”.

Asda’s strategy stands in stark contrast to its main rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, all of which have scaled back their development pipelines this year while beefing up investment in convenience stores and online retailing.

Tesco announced in February it will halve the amount of new supermarket space it opens this year to 700,000 sq ft, while Sainsbury’s and Morrisons both told investors they have scaled back their superstore development plans in favour of building more convenience stores.

Unlike its rivals, Asda is not moving into the convenience store sector.

The retailer said its five-year expansion plan has the potential to create 12,000 UK jobs.

McMillon added: “A seismic shift in the structure of the retail market is underway – not just in the UK – but right across the world.

“Asda recognised the change in its market and took early action to develop and implement a strategy that will see it grow – creating more new jobs and bringing real value to more customers in the UK.”