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Years of history
firstsRemove firsts

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.

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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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
Incorporation of firm as J Sainsbury Ltd Incorporation of firm as J Sainsbury Ltd
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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

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.
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
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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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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.

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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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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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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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 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/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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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
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’
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

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.

Introduction of ‘Freefrom’, the first supermarket range for allergy sufferers Introduction of ‘Freefrom’, the first supermarket range for allergy sufferers
Achieved 100% diversion from landfill for operational waste Achieved 100% diversion from landfill for operational waste
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Opened the first retail outlet in the UK to come off the National Grid and be powered by food waste alone. Opened the first retail outlet in the UK to come off the National Grid and be powered by food waste alone.
Sainsbury's becomes first major UK retailer to axe food multi-buys. Sainsbury's becomes first major UK retailer to axe food multi-buys.
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Sainsbury's becomes first retailer to trial Slow Shopping concept. Sainsbury's becomes first retailer to trial Slow Shopping concept.
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Trialed UK’s first 30-minute Click & Collect grocery service Trialed UK’s first 30-minute Click & Collect grocery service