Wal-Mart makes its mark as Asda opens biggest store

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The Independent Online

Asda, the supermarket group owned by the US retailing giant Wal-Mart, is to open its biggest UK store tomorrow, further fuelling the dispute over the dominance of UK supermarkets in Britain's retail sector.

The launch of the new hypermarket - which will be branded an Asda Wal-Mart Supercentre - in Milton Keynes is part of Wal-Mart's strategy to try to replicate, on this side of the Atlantic, the success it has had with giant retailing outlets in the US.

The move comes days after John Fingleton, the chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading, met MPs to discuss the dominance of several UK retail groups, including Asda, and the damage this is doing to the smaller retailers. The cross-party committee of politicians has been investigating the issue for several months. Many smaller retail companies have been calling on the OFT for several years to launch a full-blown inquiry into the matter, in the hope that the likes of Tesco and Asda - Britain's two largest supermarket chains - will be reined in.

Commenting on the new store, Joanne Denney-Finch, the chief executive of IGD, the international grocery sector think-tank, said: "The Supercentre has been Wal-Mart's main vehicle for growth in the past 10 years in the US. It has followed a strategy of converting non-food discount stores into Supercentres selling grocery as well as other products. In the UK the situation is reversed as Asda looks to increase sales of product lines such as electrical goods, clothing and homeware to grow their total retail market share."