El Corte Inglés (lit. The English Cut, implying in Spanish The English Dress Style) is Spain's largest department store chain owner of several associated businesses, such as supermarket chains Hipercor, Supercor and Opencor.
In 1934, founder Ramón Areces bought a tailor shop (which had opened in 1890) located on one of Madrid's most central streets, calle Preciados, and made it into a limited company. In 1940 he turned the shop into the current corporation El Corte Inglés, S.A. Upon Areces' death in 1989, his nephew Isidoro Álvarez was named his successor and quickly became one of the most powerful men in Spain. In 1995 El Corte Inglés bought out its only serious competitor, Galerías Preciados, which had entered bankruptcy.
El Corte Inglés is seen by the Spanish as a symbol of their culture. Many products and services in various local stores cater to the country's diverse regions.
Stores tend to be very large in size and offer a wide range of products: stores may sell music, movies, portable & household electronics, furniture, hardware, books, clothes and groceries.
International expansion began in 2001 in Portugal, with a store in Lisbon, followed in 2006 with a store in Vila Nova de Gaia, near the city of Oporto, and a third store is planned. In the same year the company announced expansion outside Iberia: Italy will be the first country to host a store .
Offshoots of El Corte Inglés include Viajes El Corte Inglés (travel agency), Hipercor (a chain of hypermarkets), Opencor (upmarket convenience stores), Supercor (supermarkets), Informática El Corte Inglés (IT services), Sfera (competitor of the clothing chain Zara), and Bricor, a chain of DIY stores.
The primary flagship store for the chain is located in Madrid at 79, Raimundo Fernández Villaverde Street. It encompasses several buildings and carries the most comprehensive collection of designers of any large store in Spain. Designer boutiques in this store include: James Purdey and Sons, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Armani, Gucci, Loewe, Bulgari, Dior, Dior Homme, Georges Rech, Hugo Boss, Boss Woman, Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry (men/women), Façonnable, Pal Zileri, Paul & Shark, Lacoste, Pavillon Christofle, CH by Carolina Herrera, Escada Sport, Lloyd’s, Purificación Garcia, Caroll Paris, Amitie, Episode, store brands (Emidio Tucci, Dustin) and many others. Also included is a branch of the Madrid based Aldeo jewelers, carrying such jewellery designers as Boucheron, Blancpain, and Hamilton.