SUPERMARKET giant ASDA has become the latest retailer to open its doors exclusively for the elderly and the vulnerable in the first few hours of trade.

ASDA, which has stores across County Durham, Darlington, Teesside and Tyne and Wear, made the announcement as rivals including Sainsbury's and Iceland launched similar schemes.

In a letter from ASDA chief executive officer Roger Burnley, he said 'larger' stores would be made exclusively available for the vulnerable from store opening until 9am.

He said: "It has become increasingly clear to us that we must help to shield the most vulnerable in our communities we want to do all we can to support this effort and have made the decision that on Friday 20th March, from store opening until 9am.

"We're going to make our larger stores available for those vulnerable people - and those caring for them, to let them shop and get what they need.

"So - if you're in a vulnerable group and need to get your shopping - or are caring for someone in a vulnerable group, we'll do everything we can to support you in stores on Friday morning before 9am."

It comes just days after Iceland announced a majority of stores across the region would be reserving their first few hours of trade for the elderly and vulnerable.