The Asquith family were butchers based in Knottingley, West Yorkshire. In the 1920s, their rising aspirations meant they expanded their business to 7 butcher’s shops in the area. The sons, Peter and Fred would later become founding members of ASDA.
A group of West Riding Dairy Farmers, including the Stockdale family and Craven Dairies, joined together under the banner of Hindell’s Dairy Farmers Ltd. This company diversified in 1949 to become the Associated Dairies and Farm Stores Ltd, with Arthur Stockdale as the Managing Director.
In 1963 the Asquith brothers converted an ex-cinema, the Queens in Castleford into a self-service supermarket. Another swiftly followed in the old indoor market at Edlington near Doncaster. Both stores traded under the name of ‘Queens’. Instead of converting an existing building their next store was a purpose built supermarket in South Elmsall near Pontefract on the site of the old Palace cinema.
It was in 1965 when the Asquith brothers joined together with Noel Stockdale, Arthur Stockdale’s son and Associated Dairies to form a new company.
ASquith + DAiries = ASDA
Another store in Wakefield and one in Whitkirk, Leeds consolidated the new company. The next year ASDA moved outside of Yorkshire to set up a store in Billingham on Teeside.
A risky decision to take over two struggling, US owned supermarkets in the late sixties turned out to be a successful acquisition as they turned the stores around. The Government Exchange Mart stores in Nottingham and Cross Gates, Leeds had accumulated losses of £320,000 and offered to sell both stores for 20% of whatever ASDA could recoup as losses from the Inland Revenue. ASDA received the whole amount so got two stores for nothing. The rent was only 10 shillings (50p) per square foot on a 20 year lease, with no rent reviews – all in all a great deal.
The 1970s saw ASDA add petrol stations to some of their stores, with their 9th store in Halifax being the first to offer such a service. With over 30 stores in the north, ASDA began their expansion into the south. By 1981, there were 80 ASDA stores but the growth was slowing and their southern expansion had been expensive. The seventies and eighties saw the diversification of ASDA’s product base including Allied Carpets, Wades Furniture, ASDA property and ASDA drive, but the eighties was a turbulent period as they moved away from their founding principles of price competitiveness and good value. Attempts to halt ASDA’s decline included the development of new-look ASDA stores; ASDA brand products and centralised distribution.
In 1988 ASDA HQ moved from an old converted mill in Morley with its collection of seven other sites around Leeds to ASDA House, a specially designed office complex, on Great Wilson Street. The next year saw the foundation of a lasting and lucrative partnership with George Davies and the introduction of George clothing in 65 ASDA stores and the takeover of 61 Gateway stores.
The early nineties saw ASDA in trouble. The recovery and rebuilding encouraged colleague involvement and a return to ASDA’s original values. The renewal was led by a new C.E.O. Archie Norman. In 1999 ASDA was taken over by Wal-Mart and the next year saw the first ASDA Wal-Mart supercentre opened at Patchway.
ASDA celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2005 having come a long way from its stores built in old cinemas and markets.