What Is the History of Sainsbury's?


Quick Answer

Sainsbury's was founded in 1869 by John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann. The couple opened their first store on Drury Lane in London. It was called J. Sainsbury's. It was initially a retail store that provided fresh foods, but it later expanded into packaged groceries and eventually developed into a full-fledged supermarket chain. In 1922, J. Sainsbury's became the largest grocery store chain in the United Kingdom and was incorporated as a private company, J. Sainsbury Limited.

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Full Answer

When John James Sainsbury died in 1928, Sainsbury's comprised 128 shops spread across the U.K. Upon his death, his eldest son John Benjamin Sainsbury, who had gone into partnership with his father in 1915, took over running the business. However, less than a decade later John Benjamin suffered a minor heart attack and was unable to continue running the business, so his sons Alan and Robert became joint managing directors.

Sainsbury's expanded through the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike competitors, such as Tesco, Sainsbury's grew organically rather than through acquisitions. The grocery chain benefited from a transition in the mid-1940s to self-service stores. After visiting the United States and seeing the efficiency of self-service grocery stores, Alan had adapted Sainsbury's business model.

Sainsbury's suffered throughout the 1990s, as patrons favored Tesco's new value line of stores. However, it bounced back in the 2000s. As of 2015, Sainsbury's operates over 1,200 stores and employs around 161,000 people.

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