June 2011

Finding Sites for Superstores ± An Early History of Asda I am working on this story from time to time. Peter Asquith, founder of Asda, gave me the photograph below in the 1980s, after we had both left the company. It seems a good place to start. A picture paints a thousand words. Our clothes, the wallpaper and the crockery give away that it is the 1970s. The group is all male. The socio-economic origins of its members is perhaps more diverse than would be found today. It is perhaps worth recalling the detail. I wrote a chapter for a text-book, details below, that was published in 1984. It covered Asda and planning. The target market for the book was students of planning, marketing, estates management and such, in the UK and in North America. Thirty or so years on, it is the characters in the story that come back to mind rather than just the chronology and the events. I have to say at the beginning that town planning issues and how a superstore fits into what I have heard described as µthe urban grain¶ is not what wo first strike today¶s shoppers. In uld my period at Asda, 1973 ± 1980, the stores were closed Sundays and Mondays and had l te a night opening on Fridays. So the big difference is trading hours permitted by the Shops Acts. Asda first began trading in the mid 1960s as the retail arm of Associated Dairies Ltd. Peter Asquith is in the right foreground of the photograph which was taken 10th February 1975. To , Peter¶s right, going anti-clockwise, is Don Ridgway, Director of Group Services, concealing his pipe in his left hand. Next is Ian Stratton, company solicitor; then David Smithies, minute taker, trainee chartered secretary, working for the company secretary; then me, Project Economist; then Howard Swales, site finder for the East of England; Roy Duffield, site finder for the west side of England and for Wales; Michael Thorncroft, chartered surveyor, New Bond Street, London, planning consultant to the company; Peter Mold, Group Public Relations; John Gallagher, Project Manager for projects under construction; John Lewis, site finder for the south of England; Philip Baines, barrister, Company Secretary. At this time the board of directors of Associated Dairies were all dairymen, except for Peter Asquith. Philip Baines and the company accountant would become directors as time went by, and so too would the Managing Director of Asda, Peter Firmston-Williams. John Gallagher worked directly to Don Ridgway and so too did the three site finders and I. That had not been Don¶s original plan. He had advertised for additional staff to form a new

sit i i l t t t i t spri re had been a Group Development Manager in charge of the site finders and me. He onl lasted si months and thereafter we worked directl to Don. The environment in which we were working changed almost immediatel after the team had been put in place with the 1973 war in the Middle East. As time went by John Gallagher took over much of the responsibility the Development Manager would have had and also took over site search in Scotland. He had started his working life as a joiner. In his own words, Peter Asquith was not much of an academic: µDoes µdirector¶ have an µe¶ or an¶o¶? He left to pursue his own interests a little before I did. In later life he was recalled to Asda to become life president. He died in June 2008. In December 2010 Howard Swales died. Howard had been Peter¶s first site finder and it is to this building surveyor¶s efforts that most of the early superstore locations were identified. Asda was so popular that finding sites for new outlets soon became an imperative. Howard, who knew Peter from school, had been finding sites for residential development, was the first recruit for new store development. Don Ridgway, became Director of Group Services, of which Development was part. Don had been a Royal Navy aircraft pilot in the Second World War. He was a dairyman, a member of the Institute of Biologists. In the spring of 1973 Don advertised for staff for a new section. By 1975, the Group Development Department had been established for about 18 months. There was a Group Development Manager, two additional site finders, one for the west of England and Wales; and one for the South of England, and me, Project Economist. I don¶t remember anything about the application form we had to fill in, except that there was a question about what lodge an applicant belonged to. Not unusual at that time, I think. Roy Duffield was recruited from Fine Fare supermarkets. John Lewis had previously been a site finder for Heron Petroleum. John Gallagher was a joiner by trade. His capability in construction had been recognised early by Don Ridgway and he was held in high esteem within the company and outside the company. John had never smoked cigarettes but had taken up cigars. Surprisingly few around the table smoked. The repercussions of the 1973 oil crisis were such that by February 1974 the stock market was on its knees. Developers¶ finance for the redevelopment of central shopping areas dried up. Though the Associated Dairies share price dropped dramatically too, the company¶s cash flow meant that we could advocate that stalled district centre schemes could be revived if a superstore were to be the magnet instead of a cluster of shops. By 1977 Asda had 42 superstores including 17 in district centres. A further eight were under construction in district centres. We produced a booklet featuring ten district centre superstores which we sent to all the district councils in the country. The featured stores were Blantyre; Chadderton; Clayton Green; Coatbridge; Crewe; Longsight; Dyce, Aberdeen; South Woodham Ferrers; Whitchurch, Bristol; and Estover, Plymouth. I reproduce the pages of the booklet below.
I spoke on planning for Asda at a number of universities and at the Town and Country Planning Association Summer School. Shortly after I left Asda, I wrote a chapter in a text book on the interaction of retail planning and town planning during the period from the foundation of Asda in 1966 to about 1980. It was published in 1984. I reproduce the first two paragraphs here by way of an introduction.

Store Location and Store Assessment Research Edited by R. L. Davies and D. S. Rogers @ 1984 John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

The impact of the development process B. Within the UK
E. Neafcy

INTRODUCTION This chapter considers the interaction between pressures for retail development in Great Britain and the constraints and guidelines imposed by the town planning system. Some comparison is made with the USA. It will be argued that there has been little positive planning by British local authorities for locations for new shopping facilities and that, therefore, the formulation of development control policies has largely been reactive to the proposals of developers and retailers. Central government's guideline for dealing with large retail planning applications is that each case should be treated on its individual merits. Hence, one cannot refer in this paper to a set of precedents but only a series of examples. There are scores of planning applications and public inquiries to choose from and selection from these can easily be biased. The cases taken in this chapter are largely drawn from personal experience of planning inquiries for Asda superstores. In contrast to North America, most housewives in Great Britain do not do their shopping in enclosed shopping centres. They have traditionally used High Streets, which have recently been strengthened by the implantation of stores of 50,000 to 80,000 square feet operated by individual companies. Retailing in Great Britain is in its own way as distinct from virtually every other country as is semi-detached housing. The 1971 Census of Distribution provided details of 339 shopping centres based around the High Street. Within these centres there are a large number of branch stores which are either part of national chains or groups with national network aspirations. These, together with the outlets of local or regional companies, have given British High Streets a balanced mixture of traders. In view of these circumstances, the introduction of new

Thanks to the internet, I found in 2011 a review which revived my interest. It had been written in 1986:
332 THE GEOGRAPHICAL REVIEW

STORE LOCATION AND STORE ASSESSMENT RESEARCH. Edited by R.L. Davies and D.S.Rogers. x and 382 pp.; maps, diagrs, references, indexes. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1984. $34.95. 23.5 x 16cm. CONSUMER SPATIAL BEHAVIOUR: A Model of Purchasing Decisions over Space and Time. By ROBERT W BACON. xiv and 170pp.; diagrs., bibliog., index. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. $23.95. 22.3 x 14cm. These are important books. R.L.Davies and D.S.Rogers have assembled a smorgasbord of applied geography, noteworthy for its focus on retailing, novel integration of North American and British contexts, and a strong private-sector representation. But for several reasons, this survey of store-location and store-assessment procedures is disappointingly incomplete. The most obvious flaws are an inadequate treatment of current practice in consumer segmentation and micromarket analysis and an almost total neglect of consumer-trip behaviour and its relationship to scale and agglomeration in the retail sector.

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States" whereas E. Neafcy's excellent review of the developmental process in Great Britain outlines the arguments that have stalled the growth of outlying shopping centers under a stiff and protective regulatory framework. Similarly D. Richards provides a useful summary of the abundant sources pertinent to a standard statistical base describing the markets of American retailers. P. M. Jones stresses the comparative paucity of such sources in the United Kingdom, compounded by governmental reduced monitoring of sales and markets. The treatment of the spatial patterns of retailing is superficial; K. Fairbairn dusts off Brian Berry's 1963 classification of shopping clusters, and C. M. Guy adopts a simplistic taxonomic approach in considering British retail concentrations. Also disappointing in comparative terms is the consideration of strategic planning in retailing. The American chapter" by J. Ritchey" outlines team-based planning and internal systems; its British counterpart, by M. P. R. Pope, largely focuses on external market assessment. The inclusion of site appraisal as a topic is a welcome feature of Store Location and Store Assessment Research' which also provides a brief treatment of recent advances in trade-area determination and appraisal. The methodological chapters are uneven; the case-study approach by J. Mercurio to store-location strategy is first-rate, and Rogers provides a convincing demonstration of the practical applications of gravity modeling. Four authors address regression-based modeling in retail-market analysis, but these chapters suffer from weak exposition and numerical excess. Nowhere in the methodological section are linearized distance-decay models given systematic coverage, and analysis of residuals is also neglected as an approach in retail market analysis. The book is undoubtedly a broad, representative survey of current practice, but that is its weakness as well as its strength. The legacy of William Applebaum is evident and understandable in view of the authors backgrounds, but the analogue method falls far short of modern practice in consumer segmentation, scanningbased tracking of shopping behaviour, vehicle-origin surveys, and micromarket profiles at the zip-code or even carrier-route scale of analysis. The rapid proliferation of commercially available statistical and graphics software also receives scant attention. In key fields these trends are six years ahead of the ideas in the book. More importantly, the application of scanning technology to the analysis of consumer-trip behavior will provide scope for empirical application of Bacon s' theoretical framework. That is an exciting prospect. DARRELL A. NORRIS

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