The History of ASDA & Where it is Now

What is ASDA?

ASDA is one of the leading British supermarkets. It’s no wonder if they’re headquartered here in God’s Own County – Leeds, West Yorkshire.

ASDA is most known for selling a variety of food products. However, over time they’ve branched out into other sectors; these include ASDA Living which sells items such as toasters, kettles and teapots, and George which sells clothes for people of all ages.

The Beginning of ASDA

ASDA’s popular supermarket chain dates all the way back to the end of the nineteenth century when pasteurisation was first introduced. In the 1900’s, dairy farmers from the Skipton area teamed up to create a milk factory which produced 500 gallons every day.

One man named Arthur Stockdale owned a milk wholesaling business in Grassington, in the Yorkshire Dales. In the 1920’s, Arthur and a few other farmers joined together to form Hindell’s Dairy Farmers Ltd and The Craven Dairies Ltd. They were the first to supply sterilised milk within the Leeds area.

In 1949, Hindell’s became ‘Associated Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd’ along with many other dairies, bakers and butchers. Arthur Stockdale was the managing director of this new business.

A year later, other businesses decided to join. ‘Associated Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd’ then expanded into most of Yorkshire and the North East. In 1963, the company dropped ‘Farm Stores’ from their name to become ‘Associated Dairies Ltd’.

Whilst the business was expanding, a group called the American GEN group was experimenting. Their idea was to fill larger stores with smaller stores which ultimately failed.

However, two brothers from a butcher’s in Pontefract tried the same idea and were successful – let’s put that down to their Yorkshire roots. Peter and Fred Asquith created their first supermarket in the Queen’s Theatre in Castleford.

A newspaper advert from 1963 promised ‘permanent reductions’ for the Queen’s Supermarket. These reductions meant overlooking the resale price which allowed manufacturers to fix their own retail price, taking advantage of its abolition in 1964. On the 1st March 2001, the Resale Prices Act 1976 was repealed.

Both Peter and Fred decided to offer late night openings. On Friday’s, The Queen’s Supermarket remained open until 8pm.

The Asquith brothers were successful; however they needed financial backing to expand. Peter met with Arthur Stockdale’s son, Noel Stockdale, and Eric Binns, the vice president and managing director of Associated Dairies.

On the 3rd May, 1965, the Asquith brothers sold their stores to Associated Dairies. The brothers, plus Noal and Eric Stockdale, became joint managing directors.

The name ASDA was created. ‘AS’ from Asquith, and ‘DA’ from Dairies. However there are rumours that the ‘AS’ was from Associated.

How ASDA became what it is today – a short history of success

Later on in the year of 1965, ASDA bought the GEM chain stores. These were rebranded as ASDA Queen. In September of the same year, ASDA opened their first stores in South Elmsall, West Yorkshire.

Then in 1968, they bought out the Asquith brothers.

Throughout the 1970’s, ASDA expanded into other business areas. These included estate agents and car sales. However, those ended quickly. In 1977, the first advert of the famous ‘pocket tap’ was aired.

On the 19th October 1987, ASDA was affected by the Black Monday stock market crash. The company had bought retailers – such as MFI and Allied Carpets – and then sold them, changing the name to ASDA Group Ltd.

The supermarket also sold their dairy subsidiaries. This meant that all connections with the companies that originally helped form ASDA’s name were no longer.

Because of this, ASDA could expand. They bought roughly 90 of their rival Gateway stores.

Another breakthrough for the business came from a partnership with popular British fashion designer George Davis. This led to ASDA introducing the “George” brand of clothing to its shops in 1989.

Archie Norman, the new chief executive, brought a new vision and progress to the company in the 1990’s. ASDA began to model their supermarkets in the same style as Walmart – the world’s leading retail company.

Due to ASDA’s success, Walmart purchased the supermarket in 1999. Because of the added investment, during the 2000’s, ASDA became one of the ‘big four’ supermarket chains in the UK.

Their new headquarters is now located on the riverside in Leeds, West Yorkshire. ASDA also bought chains such as Safeway and Netto.

As of 2020, ASDA has won the annual ‘Grocer Golds’ industry award – cheapest supermarket award – for 22 years.

Where is ASDA today?

In October 2020, ASDA was purchased by the Issa brothers, Zubar and Mohsin for £6.8 billion.

The brothers business started with a petrol forecourt in Bury, Greater Manchester in 2001 and grew rapidly. Their business, EG Groups, now owns more than 5,200 petrol stations and employs over 33,000 people.

This means that after 21 years, the supermarket is British owned again.

With the Issa brothers investment, ASDA is British owned again for the first time in 21 years.

We’re glad to have them back.