Wal-Mart's UK subsidiary Asda in discussion with 4,100 store managers over their roles as grocer places increasing emphasis on e-commerce; UK supermarkets seeking to boost online, convenience-store offerings to meet consumer demand

LONDON , May 15, 2014 () – Asda, the U.K. supermarket chain owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is in discussion with 4,100 store managers over their roles as the grocer places increasing emphasis on e-commerce.

The consultation is part of a process that will see the grocer also create 5,000 new roles for a net addition of about 900 workers, the Leeds, England-based retailer said today as it reported little changed first-quarter same-store sales.

Asda has been conducting trials at 20 stores over the past six months to develop a structure “that removes some existing department manager roles and creates new deputy manager, trading manager and section manager roles, as well as adding additional section leader roles to stores to increase the number of colleagues on the shop floor,” the grocer said.

U.K. supermarkets are seeking to boost their online and convenience-store offerings as more shoppers order from home and seek to avoid traipsing around big grocery stores. They’re also cutting prices to stem market-share losses as more customers turn to discounters such as Aldi and Lidl. Asda announced in November it would spend 1.25 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) over five years on price and quality improvements.

“More and more retailers are waking up to the idea that the market has changed and they need to change with it,” Asda Chief Executive Officer Andy Clarke said in a statement.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 0.1 percent, excluding fuel and value-added tax, in the 15 weeks ended April 20. That compares with the previous quarter’s 0.1 percent drop.

Intensifying price competition kept grocery market growth at 1.9 percent in the 12 weeks to April 27, Kantar Worldpanel said May 7. That was the lowest level in at least 11 years, except for the previous 12-week-ending period, which was affected by the late-falling Easter this year, Kantar said.

Asda was the only one of the big four supermarkets not to lose market share in the 12-week period, retaining 17.3 percent, Kantar said. It also outperformed competitors with a 2 percent sales increase, compared with the 0.3 percent gain of nearest rival J Sainsbury Plc.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gabi Thesing in London at gthesing@bloomberg.net; Paul Jarvis in London at pjarvis@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net Thomas Mulier

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