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Shopping patterns

Shopping patterns

Trading hours

When Sainsbury’s started out there were no legal restrictions on shopping hours.  Shops stayed open late into the evening on Saturdays.  Shop hours were limited from 1950, but Sunday shopping has now become the norm.

Victorian shopping

In the Victorian period, before refrigeration, rapid expiration of fresh foods dictated that people had to shop two or three times a week. This meant that meals had to be carefully planned. Shops would specialise in a particular area, as Sainsbury’s did in dairy and meats, so customers would visit several smaller shops rather than one large one. All shops during this period were counter service. Customers had to ask for how much of each product they wanted, and it was then weighed and cut accordingly. There was little opportunity to browse and so customers did not usually buy more than they needed.  A much higher proportion of wages were spent on food than by today’s standards, and much more care was taken in not creating waste. 

Post-War changes

After the Second World War, foods were gradually taken off ration and peace time opened the way for international trading and the importing of new foods. Sainsbury’s extended their product range to provide more choice to its customers. The most radical change was the introduction of self service shops. Sainsbury’s opened its first self-service branch in Croydon in 1950.  For the first time, customers could help themselves to a wide range of goods on open shelves. In the 1950s and 60s home refrigeration and car ownership grew rapidly, leading to the development of the modern style supermarket. From 1974, larger edge-of-town stores were built. Growth in home freezer ownership also meant that people were now buying more and shopping less frequently.


Modern shopping paterns

In the last 20 years, shopping patterns have shifted once again in response to people’s changing lifestyles. More women than ever before now work full time, people are working longer hours and family structure has become less traditional. Shopping hours have extended so that people can shop after work. There has also been a large increase in demand for convenience foods. The first of Sainsbury’s Locals chain of convenience stores opened in Hammersmith in 1998.

Home Delivery

Home delivery was first offered at Sainsbury’s Croydon branch, which served a wide suburban customer base. The first delivery vehicles were carts, pulled by horses or even by hand. Bicycles and tricycles came in to use at the turn of the century and in 1915 Sainsbury’s purchased its first Model T Ford van.


Four deliveries were made a day, at 8.30am, 11.30am, 2.30pm and 4.30pm, and customers had to place their orders at least half an hour before these times Unlike today’s delivery services, orders still had to be placed at the shop - free delivery saved them having to carry their shopping home. Delivery boys were only allowed to deliver goods to the front door, not the gate or roadside, and they were forbidden from taking extra goods with them to sell. In 1934, Sainsbury’s rising costs led Sainsbury’s to introduce a charge for home delivery.  During the Second World War, despite pressures to cut back and save on fuel and manpower, Sainsbury’s continued to provide home delivery to customers too frail or elderly to reach the shops.

Demand fell with the introduction of self-service shopping and the growth in car ownership and home refrigerators and home delivery was suspended in 1955.  In 1995 Sainsbury’s introduced ‘Wine Direct’ for internet wine sales. In 1998 the service was extended back to food with the launch of ‘Orderline’. This enabled customers to order their shopping via telephone, fax or the internet and have it delivered to their front door.  

The Sainsbury’s To You internet shopping service remains a popular option for today’s ‘time poor’ customers.