Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 23 July 2012

Asda opening in Inverness - after years of obstruction

(Please see UPDATE and /PS at end)

Asda is about to open its store in Inverness, after years of being stymied by rivals and partial local opposition. Generally a very positive thing, in my view, although I expect I shall continue to do the bulk of my shopping locally in Nairn at our recently-opened branch of Sainsbury, or at one of several Tesco outlets in Inverness or Forres. However, the addition of more competition in Inverness for Tesco can only be a good thing.

The only negative aspect is that Asda has been 'outed' as one of those which pays milk producers way below their cost of production, leading to planned protests by farmers outside the store on its opening day. As someone who does not consume milk, although I do buy cream, this is not of great personal interest to me, but it is probably true that whilst the farmers are being poorly treated, they perhaps require to take heed of economic reality - over-production inevitably leads to lower prices in a free market so perhaps some of them do need to shift their production to other things.

UPDATE (Thursday 26JUL2012 21.55 BST) I had my first visit to the new Asda store in Inverness yesterday afternoon and this is my report - I haven't had time to write about it until now. Although I had driven by the area some months ago, whilst it was still under construction (in the intervening period I have been at my home in Spain for several months), and although a little distance from it the signage was quite satisfactory and distinct, on approaching the turn-off into the carpark I was a little surprised by how 'obscure' the site is, because the car parking area is raised on a 'platform' several metres above the by-pass which takes you to it - no doubt this is a function of the hilly nature of the site which I had not fully appreciated during the construction phase. In any case, when I arrived at the parking area, and despite it being quite full (albeit with a few vacant spaces fairly close to the entrance, and a little distance from the store entrance) I was lucky to 'bag' a spot very close to the main entrance, just as someone was leaving! So, no long walk for me - I assume it would have been very different two days earlier on opening day.

Apart from my more recent visits to an Asda store in Elgin (and my last visit there was at least a year ago), my only previous experience of visiting this supermarket chain was quite a few years ago (when I lived in London whilst studying Arabic) when I visited their Isle of Dogs branch as my apartment in the Docklands area was only a 10 minute drive away. In general, I'd give the new Inverness store a 'thumbs up', but I have to record some slightly negative comments, too. In general, the store gave a rather 'enclosed' feel, a bit like the Tesco store in Dingwall and to some extent like the main Tesco store at the 'Retail Park' in Inverness, which although not using the same somewhat oppressive colour-scheme as its Dingwall branch or the new Asda Inverness store (which is not true of the Asda store in Elgin either, at least the last time I visited it), has recently become rather tiresome because of the end-of-aisle display units that Tesco has over the past year or so begun inserting there, specially on the aisles at the rear of the store and which project out in to the aisles and effectively make for a very congested environment.

The Inverness Asda is a large store, comparable in size I think to the largest of the Tesco stores in the city (at the retail park) and of course, at least from my first relatively brief visit, seems to have most of the requirements of a weekly shop for a family, but I did get the impression that the fresh fruit and vegetable offering was rather less extensive than is available at Tesco and indeed at the considerably smaller Sainsbury in Nairn, whilst the meat and fish offering did not seem specially remarkable either, even if I did get some very nice-looking ribeye steak, one of my favourite cuts, from what I thought was a somewhat pedestrian offering.

On balance I enjoyed my visit and purchased a few useful things, although because it is located halfway or two-thirds of the way across the city from the eastern side of the city, the closest approach from where I live in Nairn, I don't think I shall be making very regular return visits. Incidentally, I did not notice any dramatic differences in price from main local rival Tesco, bearing in mind that Asda does not have any point-earning 'loyalty card' scheme, as both Tesco and Sainsbury do. An interesting experience, nevertheless.

/PS (Monday 6AUG2012 15.55 BST) I observe that this article has been looked at twice now (according to my site stats) from a server of Wal-Mart (the parent company of Asda) in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA on 3rd and 6th August respectively; one hopes (that is to say, I hope) that this reflects mere interest on the part of a 'parent' in the doings of a far-distant minor 'off-spring' - in any case Welcome! I must admit I am slightly amazed by the interest of a major corporation in the minutiae of its operations, which I suppose is a very practical illustration of why it is so successful.

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