STUNNED fruit shop staff could not believe it when they received a letter from supermarket giant Asda asking them for staff discount.
Workers at CMB Fruiterers and Florists, in Northgate, on Hartlepool’s Headland, received a letter from the Marina Way-based store asking for an “incentive to our colleagues” such as a discount or a “special deal”.
But shop staff, who initially thought the letter was sent as a joke, were left bemused, saying it is bizarre that a profit-busting household name like Asda would ask for help from small independent retailers.
However, Asda claims the staff incentive scheme aims to help the local community and could potentially drive custom from 500 Hartlepool Asda employees the fruit shop’s way.
Shop assistant Allison Hart said: “Asda took most of our customers.
“People say ‘that’s cheaper in Asda’.
“Yet Asda want us to give their staff a discount.
“There’s no way in the world we can compete with the likes of Asda, we can’t buy stuff for the price they sell it for.
“What will we get in return?”
Allison, who works at the shop with owner Judith Temple and her daughter Tracey Temple, said some Asda staff already shop at CMB’s, which has been trading for around 20 years.
She added: “When we got the letter I phoned Asda up because I thought it was a joke.
“When the woman said it was for real, we couldn’t believe it.
“It’s through stores like them that little businesses like us are struggling, it’s pure cheek.
“You are pulling teeth to try to earn your money, it’s a nightmare.”
Last year, Asda posted pre-tax 2009 profits of £798m, a 53 per cent increase from £520m the previous year.
It has around 170,000 employees, and is Britain’s second-biggest supermarket chain behind Tesco.
Pamela Hargreaves, chairman of the Hartlepool Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It does seem strange that a company that offers such a wide range of products and is as big as Asda would make an approach to a smaller independent trader like this.
“But having said that, small businesses should turn it to their advantage and try and maximise on the extra footfall.”
An Asda spokeswoman said: “Asda in Hartlepool employs over 500 colleagues and we encourage stores to support local businesses by giving them the opportunity to incentivise and spend locally.
“When approaching the shop, our intention was to direct 500 colleagues to their specialised services and we apologise if we’ve caused any upset.
“The store works hard to support the community through the Asda Foundation.”