We’d like to say a big thank you to all our wonderful colleagues who have done so much to help our customers and their local communities during the pandemic.
We're joining in with the national day of reflection on March 23 – the first anniversary of the first national lockdown – including holding a minute's silence at midday to remember all those who've lost loved ones.
Our CEO and president Roger Burnley paid tribute to the remarkable work so many of our colleagues have done during the last year.
He said: "As we take this opportunity to reflect, it’s also important that we recognise everything that we’ve achieved together over the past year.
"The safety of our colleagues and customers has always been, and will continue to be, our number one priority and we should be very proud of everything we’ve done to look after each other. We’ve protected our vulnerable colleagues, put in place thorough safety measures in all our sites and made sure colleagues were not financially disadvantaged if they or a household member needed to isolate.
"We worked at pace to make sure we could continue to serve our customers so they could get all the essentials they needed for their family, whether that’s in store or online. I’ve received countless letters from customers throughout the year telling me how grateful they are of the exceptional service they’ve received.
"And finally, the support we’ve given to our communities has been incredible. We’ve provided relief where it’s been needed most in local areas and kept up the fantastic work with our charity partners.
"I know that the pandemic is far from over but hopefully over the next few weeks and months as more restrictions start to ease, we can look forward to better times ahead."
Here are just a few examples of some of the examples of colleagues who have gone out of their way to help others during the last year. We thank them and all our colleagues for everything they've done and the amazing work they continue to do.
Our home shopping colleagues – like Dan Tate from our South Shields store – pulled out all the stops to get deliveries to as many people as possible during the lockdown. Dan was regularly in work at 2am along with the rest of the home shopping team to manage a ten-fold increase in demand. He’s also been keeping in touch with some of his elderly and vulnerable customers, setting up a Facebook group to ensure they got what they needed.
Dan said: “It’s an uncertain time, so everybody needs a little help and consideration. We have lots of regular customers, so you build a rapport with them and want to look out for them. I just want to do the best I can all the time – and I know that’s true for the rest of the team here and at other stores too.”
When colleagues at our Wisbech store found out that regular customer Eileen was going to be spending her 90th birthday on her own during the first lockdown they decided to do everything they could to make it extra special for her.
Observing social distancing guidelines, they decorated the outside of her bungalow with balloons, brought her cake and flowers and then read out birthday messages from her family before singing happy birthday.
Eileen, who was a nurse in her younger days, said: "It was absolutely fantastic. I couldn't believe it – it was like a fairytale! The thoughtfulness and kindness of people is out of this world. I was so overwhelmed when I saw everyone from Asda in their green uniform all outside!" Store manager Matt said: "We all went round in a convoy and we met up with some of her neighbours too. Eileen was a nurse for many years so we thought it was the right thing to do!"
Delivery driver Geoff Norris (pictured above), who helped organise the surprise, was one of eight Asda colleagues recognised by the Queen in the Birthday Honours for their work during the pandemic. A further nine colleagues were recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours.
Our Dagenham store's wonderful community champion Gemma Gray was described as an "angel without wings" by a vulnerable elderly couple who had no way of getting out to do their shopping or ordering online.
Gemma stepped in to help Brian and Veronica, taking their shopping order over the phone every week, picking items off the shelves and delivering them on her way home. Veronica, who has an underlying heath condition, said: "I don't know what would have become of us without Gemma. She's an angel without wings. Gemma's in danger of becoming a lifelong personal shopper. She just instinctively knows what I would want, even down to the fact that I like the trimmed fine beans and trimmed Brussel sprouts."
Gemma said she was only too happy to help: "This is our community and these are our vulnerable elderly people and they need our help."
When our Wigan-based home delivery driver Paul discovered that the Frozen 2 cupcake mix that two-year Amelia so desperately wanted was out of stock he went out of his way to find her some and drop it round in his own time.
Amelia's mum Emma was so touched by Paul's act of kindness that she wrote to us telling us what a star he was. She said: "He went above and beyond for us and shows how much an asset he is to Asda and the community!" Amelia had received some cake sprinkles with the weekly shop, but the cupcake mix was out of stock. Emma said: "When Paul delivered our food we got chatting and I said we'd have to try to find the cupcake mix locally now so Amelia could enjoy some baking with her new sprinkles. Within the hour Paul rang me to say he was back at the Asda Wigan store and had managed to find a mixture and offered to drop this off. This absolutely made my daughter's day as little did he know that she was heartbroken as we could to not find an alternative."
Home shopping colleague Peter Spaczynski, from our Lincoln North Hykeham store, painted this amazing rainbow and message of support for NHS and key workers.
Peter, who's a keen painter and sculptor, said: "I'm on the road to the hospital, so I hoped it would raise a few smiles for people passing by, but it's had a really amazing response. During the weekly Clap For Carers there was a fire engine, two or three police cars and two or three ambulances and paramedic cars outside the house with their lights and sirens on. It must have been amazing to see, but I was out delivering at the time, so the first I heard of it was when a next door neighbour sent me a message!"
Many colleagues made the difficult decision to be parted from loved ones in the first lockdown so they could help feed the nation – like Megan from our chilled distribution centre in Washington who lived away from her two-year-old daughter Elena.
Megan's colleague Sophie said: “Megan is a true credit to Asda. She comes into work each day with a smile on her face a positive attitude, despite how difficult the situation is for her. She is a true Asda hero and I know that our colleagues are extremely grateful for everything she does for the team.”
Our stores received many touching messages of thanks over the last year – like this wonderful card from seven-year-old Ben Watson, who's so proud of his mum Claire and all her colleagues at our Antrim store for what they've done during the pandemic.
Training co-ordinator Claire said: "Towards the end the day the teachers at Round Tower Integrated School, where Ben goes, give them a nice task to do and on this occasion it was to make an appreciation poster. It was just to say thank you for anything that you are grateful for. He decided that he wanted to do Asda – completely off his own back!"
Asda customer Sarah McCarthy from Ramsgate said our home shopping driver Colin Bone was a true superhero after he turned up on the doorstep dressed as Batman – much to the delight of her daughter Ivy.
She said: "It’s people like Colin putting in that extra mile that make the world a better place. To have a superhero turn up on your doorstop was so exciting for Ivy. She absolutely loved seeing him dressed up. It was really lovely for her as we've not been going out very much lately because of the pandemic." Colin, who works out of our Broadstairs store and who's been a Batman fan since the age of four, said: "When I called at Ivy's she was at the top window looking out and she was just loving it. She's a little darling she really is. All my customers ask me why I dress up and the one thing I say to them is I do it because if I can make one person smile a day then I've done my job."
Here's delivery driver Hannah from our Yeovil store, who's one of our home shopping colleagues who've been supporting our Happy to Chat initiative since it launched in the run-up to Christmas:
It offers drivers the option to add a new element to their uniform: a ‘Happy to Chat’ badge to let customers know they’re happy to have a quick chat with them whilst their shopping is being delivered.
Lauren Low loves putting a smile on customers' faces at our Arbroath store with her friendly service and positive outlook on life – and shoppers have been quick to tell us how much they appreciate it, with one saying: "You can't get that big smile from anywhere else!”
Lauren has been making TikTok videos to keep people's spirits up, and says she's stopped by customers who recognise her from her videos. She said: "The customers here are lovely. We're a very local store so we have many regular customers. It's a great place to work and all the colleagues are brilliant. We're a great team here."
Our Ramsgate store's fantastic deputy manager Bob Ellender was named Colleagues' Colleague of the Year at the Proud To Be Asda Awards for all his work during the pandemic.
His acts of kindness included buying much-needed food for the Salvation Army, providing Christmas dinner for two families and paying for plant seeds for an elderly lady who was shielding and could not get to the store. Bob said: "I haven't done any of this for any awards, it's just the way I am, my personality – I've always wanted to help others. When I was told I'd won the award it was like, 'wow'. It's been mind-blowing really. At the end of the day we have all been heroes."
When our caring colleague Gail Greaves spotted a homeless man asleep in our Sheffield Chaucer Road store car park she immediately went to help – and thanks to her efforts he's now off the streets and has a safe place to stay.
After checking if the gentleman, called Alan, was okay, she chatted to him and got him a hot drink. Finding he had nowhere to go, Gail called Homelessness In South Yorkshire Action Page, who arrived within an hour. They posted on Facebook to thank Gail, saying: "Alan now has the keys to his new home and would personally like to say a massive thank you to Gail. She never gave up on him and Alan is now ready to start his new life." Gail said: "It was the right thing to do at the end of the day. I always have a belief that an act of kindness can make a difference to someone. I just always think that you should help people if you can."
Twenty-nine-year-old Sam Pierce has been dressing up as different key workers to thank them for everything they've been doing during the pandemic – so colleagues at our Swindon Haydon store were only too happy to help when he wanted to dress in an Asda uniform to show his support for them.
Sam, who has Down's syndrome, has dressed as a firefighter, postman, doctor and chef in posts his mum Leslye shares with family and friends on Facebook. He wanted to thank our colleagues, including his aunt Mel Walsh and cousin Stephen Goodwright, who both work at the store, so Leslye asked Mel if she could help. She put her in touch with the store's community champion Jane Atkin, who was only too happy to help.
Leslye said: "Jane was brilliant – she got Sam a uniform, with a lanyard and a name badge too. He was absolutely thrilled. He knows Asda, as we shop there, so he knew exactly what it was when I got it out of the bag. We can't thank Jane enough for sorting it out for him."
Our colleagues have been working closely with the NHS and care home professions throughout the pandemic – donating treats and essential supplies to support their work and just to let them know we're thinking of them, like here at our Watford store:
Here's seventy-eight-year-old Harbans Kaur from Smethwick who was one of the first people to receive the Covid-19 vaccination at the dedicated vaccination centre set up at our Cape Hill store in Birmingham.
Ashok Claire and his colleagues are administering jabs in a dedicated space cleared at the store to priority groups selected and contacted by the NHS. We also opened a vaccination centre at our Watford store and across both centres have so far vaccinated more than 10,000 people.
We've invested £2 million to pay for 7,000 laptops to help schools tackle digital exclusion. Roger joined our Byker store's community champion Ashleigh Longstaff to deliver the first laptops and mobile data packages to Byker Primary School in Newcastle.
Even though children are now returning to the classrooms, there is still a need for technology to support education activities inside the classroom, homework tasks, learning during the school holidays and to help schools future proof their home learning capabilities. We formed a partnership with technology provider Dell at the start of the year so that every Asda store in the UK could donate at least 10 laptops to a local school.
And our Fight Hunger Create Change programme has helped people in our local communities hardest hit by the pandemic. We've provided a kids eat free offer at our cafes since Christmas – it's also available for takeaways – and have been working closely with our charity partner FareShare to donate meals during the holidays to support children who normally have access to free school meals.
Thank you to all our colleagues for their incredible work throughout the pandemic, and to our customers for their patience, kindness, support and consideration.