After more than three months in lockdown, I am sure you are looking forward to the gradual easing of the restrictions that have dominated our lives since the end of March.
Whether catching up with friends and family or returning to your local pub - we can all look forward to enjoying some of the pleasures that we previously took for granted.
But as we slowly move into our new ‘normal’, it is increasingly clear that Covid-19 will still be part of our lives for months to come. And we know from speaking to our customers, that many of you are concerned about the long-term effects of the pandemic on your family, wellbeing, and finances as well as about a second wave of the virus, the health of your relatives and friends, and the state of the economy - most people we have spoken to say they expect their household incomes to decline during the next 12 months.
And with those concerns in mind, I want to take this opportunity to reassure you that Asda will continue to serve you and your family in the weeks and months ahead.
As people gradually return to their pre-Covid routines, we are starting to see more regular shopping patterns, which means stores are easy to access throughout the day.
However, keeping customers and colleagues safe has been our number one priority throughout lockdown and our commitment to safety remains unchanged as social distancing measures are gradually eased.
Parts of the UK are also now refining their safety measures to protect our health – be that new social distancing guidelines in England and Northern Ireland, or the compulsory wearing of face coverings in shops in Scotland. And as these new changes are implemented, I want to reassure all our customers – no matter where you shop with us – that we will respect the guidelines.
We will continue to prioritise safety and hygiene in our stores, with screens, sanitiser spray and increased cleaning of high traffic areas – to give you additional reassurance. Should we need to implement stronger measures in particular areas due to localised ‘lockdowns’ we have the capability to quickly do this. If that happens, any changes to your store opening times can be found here.
And, as ever, we would ask that you continue to play your part by paying by card when you shop and minimising your contact with others in store whenever you can.
Through lockdown we’ve expanded our home shopping capacity from 425,000 to 700,000 slots per week. We will carry on operating at this capacity for those customers who prefer to shop online but we continue to ask customers who can shop in stores safely to do so, allowing us to use our online services to get food to those who most need it.
Our colleagues and communities
I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to our colleagues who have worked tirelessly during the last twelve weeks to serve our customers in challenging and unprecedented circumstances.
The measures that we introduced to keep them safe in store, such as Perspex screens and the provision of protective equipment will remain in place despite the easing of social distancing guidelines.
We are also grateful to the 22,000 individuals, who joined us on temporary, short-term contracts, at the height of the pandemic to help feed the nation and are proud that we were able to offer them employment at a really difficult and uncertain time.
We are delighted to welcome back thousands of colleagues who have been shielding for the last 12 weeks. To protect them and their families, we offered vulnerable colleagues, and those living with extremely vulnerable people, the option of paid leave. We did this without using the Government’s furlough scheme because it was the right thing to do for our colleagues.
We have always taken pride in being an important part of the communities we serve, and during this period we have taken that responsibility even more seriously. Our support has included issuing over 150,000 home delivery passes to extremely vulnerable customers so they could order online, with no delivery charge, to protect them during lockdown. We have also provided 160,000 volunteer shopping cards and more than 250,000 medical grade face masks to care homes.
In addition, we also took direct action to support foodbanks through Covid-19 by donating £5m to FareShare and the Trussell Trust – enabling them to support 3,000 charities and over 300,000 vulnerable families each week during lockdown.
Whether it’s as colleagues or communities, we have all shown what an impact we can have when we come together and look after each other. And whilst I’m sure we all look forward to a time when Covid is no longer such a part of our lives, I for one want to retain that spirit of support and community and assure you that Asda will continue to do the right things for our customers.
Finally, as we emerge from lockdown, I want to take a moment to recognise the selfless work of the NHS and other key workers, who have done so much to keep us all safe.