5,000 jobs at risk as UK supermarket chain ASDA shifts focus to online retail

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LONDON, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) — British supermarket chain Asda announced Thursday a major transformation plan in a bid to adapt to surging online retail businesses, putting around 5,000 jobs at risk.

“The supermarket has seen a structural shift in customer behaviour towards online grocery during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said the supermarket chain in a statement, adding that delivery volumes have doubled to reach levels that “were expected to take nine years to achieve”.

Asda has already increased its online capacity by 90 percent since last March to 850,000 weekly slots, and is on course to fulfil 1 million orders per week by the end of the year, according to the firm.

The supermarket currently intends to create 4,500 new roles in online operations and the company said that it “will now enter formal consultations with around 5,000 colleagues potentially impacted by the proposals out of a total workforce of 145,000.”

“If the proposals are enacted, the priority will be to move as many colleagues as possible into alternative roles within Asda, with redundancy the last option,” said Asda.

Roger Burnley, Asda CEO and president, said: “The pandemic has accelerated change across the retail sector especially the shift towards grocery home shopping and our priority is to serve customers in the way they want to shop with us.”

“As customer habits continue to change we have to evolve our business to meet these demands and ensure our business is strong and sustainable for the long term,” Burnley said.

Founded in the 1960s in Yorkshire, Northern England, Asda is one of Britain’s leading retailers.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday a four-phase “roadmap” to ease the current lockdown. To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. Enditem