Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Asda unveils 'ethnic' expansion

By Dil Neiyyar
BBC Asian Network

Halal butchery in Asda
Asda will be selling halal meat along with ten aisles of Asian foods

Asda is about to unveil its first "ethnic store" expansion in a bid to win more Asian customers.

From Monday almost a fifth of all products sold in its Hounslow, west London branch, will be aimed at Asians.

If successful, the supermarket giant plans to roll out similar stores in other parts of London and cities with large ethnic minority populations.

Big supermarkets have been competing for Asian shoppers ahead of religious festivals such as Eid and Diwali.

The ethnic food market in Britain was worth an estimated £208m in 2008, and grew over 2007-2008 by 11%, according to the market research company Mintel.

Asda's change will see ten aisles of mainly Asian products at its store in Hounslow - an increase of 35% - including products such as chapati flour, cooking oils, spices and pulses.

For Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu religious festivals the ranges are increased to include lanterns and even traditional Asian clothes.

Asda has also introduced halal meat concessions, selling meat and poultry slaughtered in accordance with Islamic ritual, in 12 of its stores.

Anyone wanting non-halal meat has to buy pre-packed.

Naseeb Khan
Butcher and grocer Naseeb Khan said he had lost 90% of his customers

Muslim shoppers at the Hounslow branch were delighted with the policy.

But the mostly-Asian small grocers and butchers close to the store fear Asda's plans to transform its Hounslow branch into what it calls a World Food Store, could put them out of business.

Some local shops complain they are already struggling to compete with Asda since it opened a few years back and have only managed to survive in part because of the Asian products they sell.

"It's worrying me because I have a halal meat shop with groceries.

"Since they have got halal meat there we have lost 90% of our customers," said Naseeb Khan, a butcher and grocer.

"They go there and buy meals and others things, meats from there and there we are suffering," he said.

"We can't afford it now.

"If you buy from cash and carry, it costs me £6 (for) atta (chapati flour), and Asda selling the same stuff (for) £5," said corner shop manager Karamjeet Jaspal.

Industry expert Kalpesh Solanki of Asian Trader Magazine, said some small shops would inevitably go out of business as a result.

Karamjeet Jaspal
Corner shop manager Karamjeet Jaspal said Asda was undercutting him

But he said it also offered lots of opportunities for those prepared to modernise.

"Those small shops have to become better in what they do.

"That probably means better prices, fresh meat and a better service," he said.

"The managers at Asda aren't going to greet you, aren't going to say 'hello Mr Singh, nice to see you today'.

"They won't do that... your local halal butcher is going to say that," he said.

Asda denied that it was unfairly edging out small businesses.

"Clearly supporting a local community is very important to us.

"What we believe that we are doing by increasing customers is absolutely that," said Roy Clark, concessions manager at Asda.

"It is about reacting to what our customers are asking for.

"Frankly if our customers were satisfied with the offering of the local shops in terms of price and quality, then they would continue to use their local shops," he said.

"Our Asian customers are telling us that they are dissatisfied with those local shops.

"They want the convenience of getting all their products under one roof."

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