Asda Details Expansion

London Asda Group Ltd., a unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., unveiled a $776 million expansion that will create more than 9,000 jobs this year, and challenged suppliers to cut costs as customers tighten their belts amid rising living costs.

The company plans to open up to 22 stores and build 12 extensions, totaling 800,000 sq. ft., after attracting 2 million new customers through its doors last year.

Asda grew faster than all its major competitors both in terms of comparable and total sales in 2007, CEO Andy Bond told reporters at a briefing.

Of the 9,000 new jobs, 7,000 will be created through the opening of between 10 and 12 new superstores, 10 Living stores and 12 extensions to existing outlets. A further 1,500 jobs will be created through the expansion of home shopping and Asda Direct.

The continued rollout of Asda's pharmacy business will also create 500 new jobs, through the opening of 50 new in-store pharmacies.