A-Z of employers: Asda

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Age: 33

History: Stores Ltd was founded in 1965 and is now the country's third largest retailer. It pioneered the move towards edge-of-town shopping centres with huge superstores promising permanently low prices. The first range of "George" brand clothing - created by the former head of the retail chain Next, George Davis - went on sale in 1990. The company has now become something of a peoples' champion by slashing prices on selected goods, including top branded perfumes and beauty products from Chanel, Yves St Laurent and Clarins. In the process it has incurred the wrath of manufacturers who deem that is not the sort of environment in which they want to sell their products. Consumers love it.

Address: House, Southwark, Great Wilson Street, Leeds, LS11 5AD; there are 216 stores nationwide.

Ambience: Fun, lively, upbeat atmosphere. says it specifically looks for friendly people who are motivated to sell with personality. It focuses on making all staff part of the team and encourages ideas and suggestions from everyone from check-out assistants to senior management. Management are considered to be approachable by staff lower down the hierarchy. The winner of the best suggestion each month gets to run around in the company Jaguar.

Vital Statistics: A continuing success story. Over five years of industry- beating sales growth with pre-tax profit up 18.7 per cent to pounds 190m in December 1997. 's market share is currently 11.6 per cent and it gets six million customers through its check-outs each week. It also claims to be Britain's biggest pizza and curry retailer.

Lifestyle: Graduates start at the heart of the business - in the stores. Here they learn about motivating and leading a team. says it recruits people who are prepared to put themselves into a new situation and to take calculated risks. Within 18 months of joining, graduate trainees could be managing 50 people.

Easy to get into? Depends on the applicant, says . This year it is expecting 8,500 applications for just over 120 jobs. Graduate places are available in retail management, fashion, logistics and finance. It is looking for people with drive, personality, confidence, stamina and a sales focus. Applications are accepted all year round.

Pay: Minimum starting salary of pounds 16,000. Other benefits include pension, colleague share options and discounted shopping.

Training: Graduates enter on the company's "Talent Store" programme and spend three years learning the ropes. After a short intense training period, graduates are thrown in at the deep end. If they meet targets they join the First Line Manager development programme, which takes a year. They receive a certificate in management studies on successful completion of the course. By year three, graduates could be managing up to 100 people and taking further courses in negotiation techniques, leadership skills and commercial awareness. Training is ongoing throughout employment and claims to manage graduate careers through its succession planning process and core management development programmes.

Who's the boss? Tory party darling Archie Norman has been the chairman since 1996, when Allan Leighton became chief executive.

Helen Jones