A supermarket price war intensified yesterday after ParknShop launched a campaign to counter the threat of new rival AdMart. The move sparked an immediate rush for a headline-grabbing offer of 24-can packs of Coca-Cola for $35, a deal matched immediately by the Wellcome chain. The ParknShop campaign, in which 1,000 items a week will be discounted for an indefinite period, is the latest step in a retail war sparked by the June launch of media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's direct sale delivery service, AdMart, which proved an instant success. The service enables customers with phones, faxes, computers or interactive TVs to escape supermarket queues. ParknShop promises to refund customers twice the difference in price of any items on their bargain list they find being sold for less in other local supermarkets. Launching the promotion, regional managing director Logan Taylor said it was a myth that direct selling was a low-cost and highly efficient operation. 'It requires a big team of people who spend more than 70 per cent of their time driving around Hong Kong, going up in elevators and knocking on doors. Now that is a highly inefficient use of labour and low in productivity.' But he said all new competitors must be treated seriously and fought head-on. ParknShop has 182 outlets and commands about 38 per cent of the supermarket sector and a 15 per cent share of the total food market. Mr Taylor warned that small to medium-size supermarket operators would only survive the price war by improving efficiency and image. 'If you choose to be in this business, which is about low margins and high volume, and you are not an effective operator, then you will fall by the wayside,' he said. At branches in Tuen Mun, shoppers had cleared the entire stock of 24-can packs of Coca-Cola by mid-afternoon. But competitors played down the price war's effects. 'The price war is more or less expected, with the emphasis clearly being against the new competitor, AdMart,' said Guangnan (KK) Supermarket chain director and general manager Yeung Wing-tung. 'Luckily, it concentrates mainly on dry items whereas our present market focus is on the supply of fresh produce.' AdMart and Wellcome were unavailable for comment last night. ParknShop and Wellcome, owned by Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa and British-controlled Jardine Matheson respectively, have long held a duopoly in the grocery market. The Consumer Council said it would keep a close watch on the price war. 'We welcome any drop in prices which is beneficial for consumers as long as they will not incur negative effects . . .,' spokesman Kenneth So Wai-sang said.