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Our history

The story of Asda is full of amazing, surprising facts and it starts in Yorkshire with the Asquith and Stockdale families almost 100 years ago. This is the story of how these two families created one incredible retail revolution.

Founding principles

Five ASDA associates are tapping their pocket book area

The story of Asda is one of pioneering people with visionary ideas.

From our beginnings as the first UK discounter, offering our customers the very best value has been our driving force. We built our business upon listening to our diverse range of customers and offering what they need. We're at our best when we keep things simple. From checkout to boardroom, our colleagues are the heroes, and they've always made Asda special. Every one of us shapes the character of this company.

The early years

Black and white image of a two story brick building with ASDA logo on side and front

The years leading up to the formation of Asda were years of momentous meetings, partnerships forged in the heat of inspiration, big ideas, great dreams and bold actions.

Its roots can be traced back to the 1920s and just two branches, but no-one knew then quite how incredible the future would be.

Mayor visits new supermarket

In the beginning

The Asquith family (W.R. Asquith) ran a butcher’s shop in Knottingly, West Yorkshire, which was eventually expanded to seven shops. The two sons of W.R. Asquith, Peter and Fred, were actively involved in the family business and were later to become co-founders of Asda.

At the same time during the 1920s, a group of enterprising West Riding dairy farmers joined forces under the banner of Hindell’s Dairy Farmers Ltd. These included the Stockdale family (A. Stockdale).

Through a process of acquisition and diversification, a new public company was formed in 1949 – Associated Dairies & Farm Stores Ltd, with Arthur Stockdale as Managing Director.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Associated Dairies had expanded the number of pork butchery shops (under the Farm Stores fascia) and had also created the Craven Dairies brand for its cake shops and cafes. The son of Arthur Stockdale, Noel (later to become Sir Noel Stockdale) met and struck up an immediate rapport with the Asquith brothers. He went on to become the other co-founder of the future Asda, in a meeting that would change the way we shop forever.


Older Asda store exterior and late 80's-90's cars in the car park


Peter and Fred Asquith had opened and sold their first store, and retail is in their blood. In search of inspiration, they travelled to the USA to visit Piggly Wiggly, probably the world's first supermarket. The trip was a revelation that led to a revolution in retail.


So inspired and energised were the Asquith brothers by their American trip they converted what was once a theatre called The Queens, into the UK's first self-service supermarket in Castleford. Soon after, they converted an indoor market into their second ‘Queens’ store.

At the same time, the Asquith brothers made an incredible discovery: the concept of food discounting. Crosse & Blackwell were offering a six penny (2½p) postal order for every soup label returned. The Asquith’s buyer, Jack Hewitt (later to become Managing Director of Asda), spotted an opportunity and ordered 1,000 cans of soup. The three then spent the next few days cutting off labels for redemption and offering the cans of soup at a 3d discount. The concept of food discounting and offering customers value for money had arrived. Customers loved the idea… and they still do!

Around the same time, the Asquith brothers pioneered late-night shopping on Fridays. It was a first in retail and, once again, customers loved it.

Introducing Asda

By the mid-1960s, Britain was starting to swing. Rationing was ten years in the past; the economy was booming; car ownership was growing; and there was shopping to be done.

A great mood of optimism was sweeping the country, and nowhere more so than at Queens, where something very, very exciting was about to happen.