Supermarket giant Asda has unveiled a direct telephone-based book, video and music retailing service, with plans to launch the scheme on the Internet next year.
The service, Asda@Home, will operate through a dedicated call centre, offering customers a choice of 147,00 book titles, 7,000 videos and 120,000 CD and audio cassette titles.
The chain is pledging to match the heavy discounting offered by existing virtual book and record shops, such as Amazon.co.uk, with discounts of between 20 and 45 per cent on the recommended prices for high street retailers.
Asda’s home and leisure director Sioned Rees-Thomas says the move is aimed at expanding the retailer’s existing four per cent share of the “4bn entertainment market”. The company confirms that it is not linking with an existing Web-based electronic retailer to create the Asda- branded service.
One source within the electronic book-selling sector suggests Asda’s decision to launch a telephone-based direct sales operation ahead of an Internet launch shows the chain is fully committed to building a direct retail fulfilment capacity in-house, alongside wholesale and distribution partners.
But Amazon.co.uk managing director Simon Murdoch questions whether offering phone-based search facilities through call-centre operators can achieve the same transactional efficiencies as those offered by a purely Web-based service.
He adds: “To get things right, Asda will have to offer excellence in pricing, range of selection, and service. And that will demand a great investment in developing its support systems.”