“The service stations have had their own way for far too long. It’s time to end the great motorway rip-off and inject a little competition onto our roads.” And with that rationale, chief operating officer at Asda, Paul Mason, applied to the highway authorities to re-designate the US giant Wal-mart-owned stores as “tourist destinations.”
A loophole in British regulation means that because it generates more than 250,000 annual visits from the public, supermarket chain Asda is technically able to register as a tourist destination. This means it can put up brown motorway signs that will direct motorway users away from the arguably extortionately priced service stations to Asda’s in-store cafes, over half of which are situated within three minutes drive of motorway junctions or major trunk routes.
A sign has already been erected on private land by junction 3 of the M66 to advertise a “welcome break” from notoriously high service station prices. Asda says it is up to two-thirds cheaper on the snacking staples when compared to prices at, for example, the Granada service station chain, and it is also 2p per litre cheaper on petrol.
To fully comply with regulations, however, “tourists” arriving at stores advertised in this way are also able to buy traditional seaside paraphernalia such as rock, saucy postcards and ornamental donkeys.