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Catford Hill

Serving The Nation Since 1869

In 2014, Sainsbury’s celebrated its 145th birthday. As you might expect, things have changed considerably since Sainsbury’s was founded in 1869. Over 20 Prime Ministers have been in office and we’ve seen six different monarchs on the throne. The telephone and the light bulb were invented, and two World Wars shook the nation.  

Through all this, Sainsbury’s has remained steadfast in its commitment to its values, endeavouring to provide families with high quality food at affordable prices. The following is an overview of the Sainsbury’s story from 1869 through to the modern day.

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John James Sainsbury with his six sons


It was 1869 when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened the first Sainsbury’s 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.

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8 London Road, Forest Hill


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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Ladbroke Grove


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 isles 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.

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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Crawley West Green


Sainsbury’s saw in the millennium with a total of 432 stores across the UK and more ways to make the shopping experience for customers as enjoyable as possible.

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.

The interactive graph below shows how the number of Sainbsury's stores and colleagues have grown over the years.

  • Chapel Street, Islington, c.1895
  • 79 Angel Lane, Stratford East London
  • 8 London Road, Forest Hill
  • Gants Hill, Ilford
  • 9/11 London Road, Croydon
  • Weston-super-Mare
  • Crawley West Green
  • Romily Local

Sainsbury's Journey Through The Decades

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