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Years of history
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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.
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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.

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
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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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Expansion into the Midlands, with the acquisition of the Thoroughgoods chain Expansion into the Midlands, with the acquisition of the Thoroughgoods chain

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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9/11 London Road, Croydon branch converted to self-service shopping 9/11 London Road, Croydon branch converted to self-service shopping
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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.

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.
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First in-store bakery opened at Telford. First in-store bakery opened at Telford.
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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.
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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
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
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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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First Scottish branch opens in Darnley, Glasgow First Scottish branch opens in Darnley, Glasgow
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First store in Northern Ireland opens at Ballymena First store in Northern Ireland opens at Ballymena
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First Sainsbury’s Local store opens in Hammersmith First Sainsbury’s Local store opens in Hammersmith

Re-building the Brand

2000-2018

Sainsbury’s saw in the millennium with a total of 432 stores across the UK and more ways to make the shopping experience easier.

In 2004 Sainsbury’s began working with the Woodland Trust and has planted nearly two million trees since. A year later, Sainsbury’s were the first retailer to introduce traffic light nutritional labelling on products to give customers a better indication of the nutritional value.

By 2010, Sainsbury’s had opened the first of six food colleges – these have now trained 18,000 colleagues in traditional skills.

Sainsbury’s headquarters moves from Blackfriars to Holborn Sainsbury’s headquarters moves from Blackfriars to Holborn
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1000th store opens in Irvine, Scotland 1000th store opens in Irvine, Scotland
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Opened 100th store in Scotland Opened 100th store in Scotland