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150

Years of history

Humble Beginnings

1869-1899

It was 1869 when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened the first Sainsbury's store on London's Drury Lane. The business didn't take long to flourish, proving popular with locals due to the high quality yet affordable goods on offer.

By 1881, three more stores were opened to help cater for the growing demand. In 1882, they opened their first shop outside of London, in Croydon and it quickly became Sainsbury's flagship store.

SA/FAM/1/IMA/1/7 - Photograph of John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury, [1896]
John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury open Sainsbury's first dairy shop at 173 Drury Lane, London. John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury open Sainsbury's first dairy shop at 173 Drury Lane, London.
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Second shop opened at 159 Queens Crescent, Kentish Town. Second shop opened at 159 Queens Crescent, Kentish Town.
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First depot and bacon stoves at Allcroft Road, Kentish Town, producing Sainsbury's own brand bacons and hams were established. First depot and bacon stoves at Allcroft Road, Kentish Town, producing Sainsbury's own brand bacons and hams were established.
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First suburban branch at 9/11 London Road, Croydon, selling 'high class provisions' opened. First suburban branch at 9/11 London Road, Croydon, selling 'high class provisions' opened.
SA/BL/IMA/8/4 - Photograph of sausage production in factory
Sainsbury's first own brand sausages were made behind the scenes of the Croydon branch. Sainsbury's first own brand sausages were made behind the scenes of the Croydon branch.
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New headquarters, depot and factory established at 11 Stamford Street, Blackfriars. New headquarters, depot and factory established at 11 Stamford Street, Blackfriars.
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Lloyd Maunder of Tiverton, Sainsbury's longest serving supplier, began supplying butter, eggs, rabbits, pig meat and paultry. Lloyd Maunder of Tiverton, Sainsbury's longest serving supplier, began supplying butter, eggs, rabbits, pig meat and paultry.

Fresh Challenges

1900-1939

As the First World War broke out in 1914, Sainsbury’s began actively recruiting for female colleagues to solve the colleague shortage. By 1918, Sainsbury’s employed 39 female branch managers. War raged on so the government was forced to introduce rationing on sugar in 1917. By 1918 this had expanded to butter, margarine and various other products.

It wasn’t until 1921 that food became free of restrictions and Sainsbury’s was once again able to drive the cost of goods down for customers throughout the 1920s and 1930s before war (and rationing) struck once again in 1939.

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First store outside of London at Redhill, opened. First store outside of London at Redhill, opened.
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Dalston store opened, which was the first branch to start selling longer life grocery goods as well as a fresh food range Dalston store opened, which was the first branch to start selling longer life grocery goods as well as a fresh food range
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Sainsbury’s opens the 100th branch in London and the southeast Sainsbury’s opens the 100th branch in London and the southeast
SA/PKC/PRO/1/11/4/1 - Coffee packaging and product images
Sainsbury’s Red Label tea introduced into Sainsbury's product range becoming an instant favourite Sainsbury’s Red Label tea introduced into Sainsbury's product range becoming an instant favourite
SA/WAR/2/IMA/1/1 - Photograph of female butcher, Second World War
First female sales assistants recruited to help with staff shortages during the First World War First female sales assistants recruited to help with staff shortages during the First World War
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John Benjamin Sainsbury joins his father John James as a partner of the company John Benjamin Sainsbury joins his father John James as a partner of the company
SA/EMP/1/14/2 - Staff experience card of Cyril Robert Croft
Staff training school established at Blackfriars Staff training school established at Blackfriars
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Sainsbury's Streatham branch was bombed by a Zeppelin in September 1916 Sainsbury's Streatham branch was bombed by a Zeppelin in September 1916
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Grocery departments introduced into larger shops and new branches as standard Grocery departments introduced into larger shops and new branches as standard
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Good Fellowship Trust set up for staff in need by John James and John Benjamin Sainsbury Good Fellowship Trust set up for staff in need by John James and John Benjamin Sainsbury
Incorporation of firm as J Sainsbury Ltd Incorporation of firm as J Sainsbury Ltd
SA/MARK/ADV/1/1/1/1/1/19/9 - "Scotch Beef from the Balmoral Farms of H.M. The King" advertisement
‘Scotch’ beef from the Aberdeen area; regarded as the best available was introduced to the Sainsbury’s range. It was originally supplied by a butcher named Blacklaw from Stonehaven near Aberdeen ‘Scotch’ beef from the Aberdeen area; regarded as the best available was introduced to the Sainsbury’s range. It was originally supplied by a butcher named Blacklaw from Stonehaven near Aberdeen
John James Sainsbury dies John James Sainsbury dies
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The pioneering pilot Amy Johnson became the first public figure to be used in Sainsbury's adverts The pioneering pilot Amy Johnson became the first public figure to be used in Sainsbury's adverts
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Sickness insurance and pensions scheme for staff were introduced Sickness insurance and pensions scheme for staff were introduced
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Expansion into the Midlands, with the acquisition of the Thoroughgoods chain Expansion into the Midlands, with the acquisition of the Thoroughgoods chain
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Alan Sainsbury becomes joint Director of Sainsbury's with his brother Robert Sainsbury Alan Sainsbury becomes joint Director of Sainsbury's with his brother Robert Sainsbury

The British Shopping Revolution

1940-1969

In 1950, Sainsbury’s opened their first self-service on London Road, Croydon. This meant the transition from stores whereby colleagues fetched all the items a customer needed, to the modern method we see in stores today of customers browsing aisles and selecting their own products.

As self-service stores became more common, Sainsbury’s was able to produce and sell more of its own-brand goods. In 1969, Sainsbury’s own-brand products accounted for over 50 per cent of its turnover.

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Introduction of ‘Fair Shares’ scheme to ensure that non-rationed goods in short supply were distributed fairly. Introduction of ‘Fair Shares’ scheme to ensure that non-rationed goods in short supply were distributed fairly.
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Rationing Starts Rationing Starts
SA/WAR/2/IMA/1/3 - Photograph of arrangement of Second World War products
Sainsbury’s halved paper labels on cans to save paper to help the war effort Sainsbury’s halved paper labels on cans to save paper to help the war effort
SA/SC/JSJ/1/1 - JS Journal Vol. 1 No. 1
Publication of the first issue of ‘The Journal’, the company’s internal magazine Publication of the first issue of ‘The Journal’, the company’s internal magazine
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9/11 London Road, Croydon branch converted to self-service shopping 9/11 London Road, Croydon branch converted to self-service shopping
SA/PKC/PRO/1/14/4/a4/1 - Photograph of Sainsbury's Ground White Pepper pot designed by Leonard Beaumont
An in-house designer, Leonard Beaumont is appointed to create a unified look and own brand product packaging suitable for self-service stores An in-house designer, Leonard Beaumont is appointed to create a unified look and own brand product packaging suitable for self-service stores
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Sainsbury's opens the largest self-service food store in Europe at Lewisham, selling bread and fresh produce for the first time. Sainsbury's opens the largest self-service food store in Europe at Lewisham, selling bread and fresh produce for the first time.
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Sainsbury's first TV advertisement, promoting frozen chicken as an inexpensive family meal. Sainsbury's first TV advertisement, promoting frozen chicken as an inexpensive family meal.
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First appearance of ‘Good food costs less at Sainsbury’s’, described by BBC news as ‘probably the best-known advertising slogan in retailing’. First appearance of ‘Good food costs less at Sainsbury’s’, described by BBC news as ‘probably the best-known advertising slogan in retailing’.
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First permanent depot outside London, at Buntingford, Hertfordshire, distributing 500 non-perishable grocery lines. First permanent depot outside London, at Buntingford, Hertfordshire, distributing 500 non-perishable grocery lines.
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EMIDEC1100 computer installed at Stamford House, making Sainsbury’s the first food retailer to computerise the distribution of goods to its stores. EMIDEC1100 computer installed at Stamford House, making Sainsbury’s the first food retailer to computerise the distribution of goods to its stores.
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Introduction of non-food products such as washing powder and shampoo at larger self-service supermarkets. Introduction of non-food products such as washing powder and shampoo at larger self-service supermarkets.
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Sainsbury’s launch a general interest magazine, ‘Family’, a quarterly publication which it claimed was 'the first store-to-customer magazine in this country' Sainsbury’s launch a general interest magazine, ‘Family’, a quarterly publication which it claimed was 'the first store-to-customer magazine in this country'
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First self-service off-license department at Bristol. First self-service off-license department at Bristol.
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Sainsbury’s Design Studio, led by Peter Dixon, wins Royal Society of Arts Presidential Award for Design Management, the first of its kind to be awarded in the supermarket industry. Sainsbury’s Design Studio, led by Peter Dixon, wins Royal Society of Arts Presidential Award for Design Management, the first of its kind to be awarded in the supermarket industry.
SA/MARK/ADV/3/2/1/10/1/2/1 - "Buy A Cake This Weekend From Sainsbury's"
In 1969 Sainsbury’s celebrated its 100th birthday. As part of the festivities customers were given a free slice of cake in store. Some were handed out personally by JD Sainsbury. In 1969 Sainsbury’s celebrated its 100th birthday. As part of the festivities customers were given a free slice of cake in store. Some were handed out personally by JD Sainsbury.

Nationwide expansion

1970-1999

In was in this period that Sainsbury's established itself as a truly national retailer, first opening stores in Yorkshire and the north and then expanding to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Sainsbury’s was floated on the stock exchange in 1973 and continued to innovate into the 80s and 90s, introducing carrier bags made from recycled material and was one of the first to sell Fairtrade products.

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Opening of Folkestone branch. The branch accepted French, Belgian and American currency. Opening of Folkestone branch. The branch accepted French, Belgian and American currency.
SA/BRA/5/9/8/1/1 - Photograph of store interior with decimalisation conversion table
Sainsbury’s opens a ‘decimal’ shop in Croydon to introduce customers to decimal currency, a year before ‘D-Day’ Sainsbury’s opens a ‘decimal’ shop in Croydon to introduce customers to decimal currency, a year before ‘D-Day’
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Sainsbury’s opens first supermarket delicatessen counter at Wandsworth, stocking 73 items. Sainsbury’s opens first supermarket delicatessen counter at Wandsworth, stocking 73 items.
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'Plessey' data capture ordering introduced. 'Plessey' data capture ordering introduced.
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Baby cradles introduced. Baby cradles introduced.
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First in-store bakery opened at Telford. First in-store bakery opened at Telford.
Public flotation on the stock exchange Public flotation on the stock exchange
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Doncaster branch opened its doors in October 1974. It was Sainsbury’s most northerly branch and the first in Yorkshire. Doncaster branch opened its doors in October 1974. It was Sainsbury’s most northerly branch and the first in Yorkshire.
Employees were first offered a stake in the Company through a Savings related Share Option Scheme. Employees were first offered a stake in the Company through a Savings related Share Option Scheme.
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First edge-of-town store opens at Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, including a fresh fish counter, petrol station and coffee shop First edge-of-town store opens at Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, including a fresh fish counter, petrol station and coffee shop
SA/SUB/FRE/6/12 - Photograph of Goodmayes Freezer Centre interior, 1978
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First Welsh branch opens in Cwmbran First Welsh branch opens in Cwmbran
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First Sainsbury’s (and British Home Store) SavaCentre hypermarket opens in Washington, Tyne and Wear First Sainsbury’s (and British Home Store) SavaCentre hypermarket opens in Washington, Tyne and Wear
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Discount '78 launched as company's new discounting operation. Discount '78 launched as company's new discounting operation.
SA/BRA/4/3/5/1/8 - Slide photograph of computerised checkout 1979
Computer checkout experiments began at Broadfield, Crawley Computer checkout experiments began at Broadfield, Crawley
SA/SUB/SGB/A-Z/C/IMA/8/3 - Photograph of Croydon Homebase, c.1981 (interior: aisles with shoppers)
First Sainsbury’s Homebase house & garden centre at Purley Way, Croydon First Sainsbury’s Homebase house & garden centre at Purley Way, Croydon
SA/PKC/PRO/1/6/2/5/1/9/1 - Sainsbury's Vitapint carton, 1980s-1990s
Introduction of Vitapint, a low-fat vitamin-enriched milk and Sainsbury’s first product to contain nutritional labelling Introduction of Vitapint, a low-fat vitamin-enriched milk and Sainsbury’s first product to contain nutritional labelling
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Burpham in Guildford is the first store to open with checkout scanning Burpham in Guildford is the first store to open with checkout scanning
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Closure of last counter service store, at Rye Lane, Peckham Closure of last counter service store, at Rye Lane, Peckham
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Ready meals launched Ready meals launched
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The environmentally friendlier Greencare range was introduced The environmentally friendlier Greencare range was introduced
SA/PKC/PAC/6/5/2/2 - Promotional photograph of "Making Life Taste Better" orange bag for life with sliced oranges
The first ever carrier bags made from recycled plastic were introduced The first ever carrier bags made from recycled plastic were introduced
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First Scottish branch opens in Darnley, Glasgow First Scottish branch opens in Darnley, Glasgow
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Sainsbury's ‘The Magazine’ launched in store Sainsbury's ‘The Magazine’ launched in store
Sainsbury’s becomes a founding partner of Fare Share community food donation programme Sainsbury’s becomes a founding partner of Fare Share community food donation programme
SA/BRA/5/5/1/2 - Wine Direct brochure
Sainsbury’s offers wine over the internet through ‘Wine Direct’ Sainsbury’s offers wine over the internet through ‘Wine Direct’
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First store in Northern Ireland opens at Ballymena First store in Northern Ireland opens at Ballymena
Introduction of Fair Trade products Introduction of Fair Trade products
SA/SUB/BNK/2/1 - Sainsbury's Bank Visa Card brochure "A fresh new idea for Sainsbury's customers…"
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First Sainsbury’s Local store opens in Hammersmith First Sainsbury’s Local store opens in Hammersmith
SA/BRA/5/5/2/1 - Guide to Orderline (booklet)
Sainsbury’s launches ‘Orderline’, a telephone, fax and internet home delivery shopping service Sainsbury’s launches ‘Orderline’, a telephone, fax and internet home delivery shopping service
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