Asda shoppers at stores in Birmingham trying to buy the new Just Essentials range face a postcode lottery, with 62 of products in the range out of stock when checked during an exclusive audit by the publishers of BirminghamWorld.
The supermarket launched the new line, which has almost entirely replaced the former Smart Price and Farm Stores brands, earlier this year with a promise that the full range would be available in all 581 stores and online.
Bosses said the new range had been designed with tackling the cost of living crisis in mind, adding that the store’s mission was “to meet all household needs through Just Essentials by Asda, and ensure that families can enjoy nutritious food, no matter their budget”. The range spans everything from food cupboard essentials, dairy, fresh and frozen meat and prepared products.
But in a snapshot taken across seven UK cities earlier this month, we found that between 18% and 34% of products were either out of stock or listed as ‘unavailable’ online.
NationalWorld tried to purchase 222 food, drink and household cleaning Just Essentials products listed on the Asda website using central postcodes in Birmingham, as well as other cities Newcastle, London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to see how they compare. The search found a wide variation in availability. The snapshot was taken between 8 and 9 November.
What did the data show for Birmingham’s Asda stores?
According to the research, in Birmingham 62 (28%) of products from the range were out of stock. Only Belfast had a worse rate, where 34% of products were out of stock.
Edinburgh had the best availability, although 39 (18%) were still out of stock. It was followed by Cardiff 44 (20%), Newcastle 50 (23%) and Manchester 51 (23%), South London 54 (25%).
Patchy availability of value range products is not a new issue for Asda. In January, food writer Jack Monroe posted a viral Tweet criticising the Office for National Statistics over its inflation index, in which she also hit out at Asda over the dwindling number of Smart Price products available in her local store.
The anti-poverty campaigner had pointed out that poorer shoppers faced exaggerated levels of inflation if stores did not widely stock their cheapest products. In her local Asda, she could no longer buy a 29p bag of Smart Price pasta, and had to instead opt for a 70p own-brand version – the equivalent of a 141% price rise.
Asda said in response that it would stock its entire Smart Price and Farm Stores ranges in all 581 food stores and online to help customers with the cost-of-living crisis.