Skip navigation
Sainsbury Archive Logo

150

Years of history
peopleRemove people

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.

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.

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
sa-fam-2-ima-1-3cropped.jpg
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
sa-emp-11-4-1cropped.jpg
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
John James Sainsbury dies John James Sainsbury dies
counterservice.jpg
Sickness insurance and pensions scheme for staff were introduced Sickness insurance and pensions scheme for staff were introduced
12c.jpg
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.

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
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.

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.
SA/SC/JSJ/53/1 - JS Journal
Launched partnership with Comic Relief Launched partnership with Comic Relief

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.

Active Kids programme launched. Active Kids programme launched.
Established 'You Can' employment programme in partnership with Remploy, Mencap and Job Centre Plus - 13,000 people employed as a result. Established 'You Can' employment programme in partnership with Remploy, Mencap and Job Centre Plus - 13,000 people employed as a result.
Opened first food college Opened first food college
waste-less-save-more-november-2016.jpg
Announced £1m funding in fight against food waste. Announced £1m funding in fight against food waste.
argos-september-2016.jpg
Completed purchase of Home Retail Group. Completed purchase of Home Retail Group.
slow-shopping-august-2016.jpg
Sainsbury's becomes first retailer to trial Slow Shopping concept. Sainsbury's becomes first retailer to trial Slow Shopping concept.
Achieved 'Disability Confident Leader' status Achieved 'Disability Confident Leader' status