ASDA has launched a new initiative to help combat loneliness, especially heightened by recent lockdown measures, in the lead up to Christmas.

With help from Royal Voluntary Service, ASDA is working with its delivery drivers and in store Community Champions to tackle social isolation in the community with the aim of delivering a little Christmas kindness this year.

Happy to chat

From today, ASDA’s 7,500 delivery drivers will have the option to add a new element to their uniform: a ‘Happy to Chat’ badge to let customers know they’re happy to have a quick chat with them whilst their shopping is being delivered.

And it’s needed more now than ever as according to Royal Voluntary Service, (13%) said they are experiencing loneliness, with over a third (39%) unable to see friends and family, and a quarter (25%) left without any support nearby.

The initiative was developed as it was recognised that the drivers formed a lifeline for some of these people throughout the pandemic. In fact, ASDA revealed that almost a quarter (23%) are only interacting with people once a week - many of whom will be delivery drivers. 1 in 4 said they looked forward to seeing them just to have someone to talk to.

These small interactions can make a big difference though - chats with delivery drivers (24%), encounters with neighbours (35%), and FaceTime with a loved one (41%) for just a few minutes have boosted morale throughout the pandemic. 36% have confirmed that even a quick chat can lift their spirit during these difficult times.

The badges will be particularly useful for the 42% who say they shy away from starting a conversation as they don’t want to be a burden. 25% would also be more likely to start a new conversation if they knew the other person was ‘Happy to Chat’ too.

ASDA community champions

As well as its drivers, Asda’s Community Champions will be working with local school children to create Christmas cards for local care homes and those isolated in the community. Special post boxes will be available in larger stores for customers wishing to get involved. Virtual community networking events are also being hosted to bring those that are isolated together to share tips and advice.

Anna-Maree Shaw, CCO of Asda, said: “It’s a challenging time for everyone, especially those experiencing loneliness. While ASDA colleagues have always made an effort to have a quick chat and raise a smile, we want to make sure that whether it’s in our stores, at the doorstep or in the community – we’re here for customers this Christmas.”

Asda recently won ‘Online Supermarket of the Year’ at the 2020 Grocer Gold awards for its online grocery service.

Vice President of Online Grocery at Asda, Simon Gregg, commented, “We’ve always been proud to have some of the friendliest drivers here at ASDA, and never more so than this year. The Happy to Chat badges are a symbol of the great work they do – delivering a little kindness along with their groceries to someone who may be lonely or isolated.”

To bring the initiative to life, ASDA has created a short film, featuring colleagues Geoff Norris - who was recently celebrated in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list – Colin Bone, and Elesha Moses. The film follows them on their delivery rounds as they interact with customers and shows the ‘Happy to Chat’ badges in action across the UK. To view the film, please click here.

Sam Ward, Deputy CEO/Director of Services at Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Royal Voluntary Service is incredibly proud to be part of such a wonderful initiative alongside ASDA. We all understand that Christmas can be difficult for those who are on their own and that this year stands to be trickier than ever. With the help of this fantastic project, it shows that even just a little Christmas kindness will go a long way in making the festive season easier for those in need.”

And it’s not just delivery drivers or in-store colleagues who can help out, everybody can do their bit in reaching out to people they think may be lonely – these conversation starters from Royal Voluntary Service can help generate a chat with someone who might really benefit from it:

How are you doing / feeling today?Have you spoken to any of your friends, neighbours or family recently?What’s your favourite meal?What’s your favourite Christmas food? Have you treated yourself to a mince pie yet or are you not a fan?Do you think it will snow this Christmas?