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Coronavirus: Asda trials virtual queuing as it plans for longer-term social distancing
May 19, 2020
Asda is trialling a “virtual queuing” system as it seeks to address shoppers’ safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
The system allows customers to log in to the queue remotely and wait in their cars to enter stores.
Britain’s third biggest supermarket chain said it was part of its investment in longer-term social distancing measures.
Chief executive Roger Burnley said it was “increasingly clear that COVID-19 is set to be part of our lives for months to come”.
Asda said two-thirds of customers were still concerned about safety in supermarkets.
The virtual queuing system is being trialled at its store in Middleton, near Leeds.
Britain’s supermarkets have remained open during the coronavirus lockdown because they are classed as essential retailers unlike other businesses such as fashion stores.
But the virus has changed the way people are able to shop there because of measures to limit contact and maintain hygiene.
It means long, socially distanced queues have become familiar sights outside supermarkets.
Details of the virtual queuing trial were revealed as Asda published a first-quarter trading update showing that like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, rose 3.5% compared to the same period a year ago.
That included a boost from customers stocking up ahead of the lockdown starting in March.
Asda said that at one point during the period its website was receiving more than 3,500 visits per minute.
However, the company said it had seen a significant decline in non-essential items such as fashion, fuel and general merchandise.
Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at analytics company GlobalData, said Asda had under-performed compared with other businesses owned by US parent Walmart, as well as lagging UK rivals such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.
He said: “Like-for-like grocery growth of 3.5% would normally be enough to impress us, but Asda’s performance pales somewhat when compared to others, indicating that it has struggled to adapt to the COVID-19 crisis as well its rivals.”