Sainsbury's: Wikis


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Coordinates: 51°31′02″N 0°06′30″W / 51.51722°N 0.10833°W / 51.51722; -0.10833

J Sainsbury plc
Type Public (LSE: SBRY)
Founded 1869
Headquarters Holborn Circus, London, England
Key people Philip Hampton, Chairman
Justin King, CEO
Industry Retail (Grocery)
Products Supermarkets, banking
Revenue £18,911 million (2009)[1]
Operating income £673 million (2009)[1]
Net income £289 million (2009)[1]
Employees 148,500[2]
Subsidiaries Sainsbury's Bank
Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.
Sainsbury's Convenience Stores Ltd.
Website Corporate Website Consumer Website

J. Sainsbury plc (LSE: SBRY) is the parent company of Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd, commonly known as Sainsbury's (also Sainsbury and JS), the third largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom with a share of the UK supermarket sector of 16.3%.[3] The group also has interests in property and banking.

Sainsbury's was founded in 1869 by John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann (née Staples), in London, England, and grew rapidly during the Victorian era. It grew to become the largest grocery retailer in 1922, pioneered self-service retailing in the UK, and its heyday was during the 1980s. In 1995, Tesco overtook Sainsbury's to become the market leader, and Asda became the second-largest in 2003, demoting Sainsbury's into third place.

The founding Sainsbury family still retain approximately 15% of J Sainsbury plc shares (as of May 2008), through various trusts. The family sold down their stake from 35% in 2005. The largest family shareholders are Lord Sainsbury of Turville with 5.83% and Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, who controls just under 3% of the company, and benefits from 1.6% of the equity included in the above.

It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.




The Victorian era

Sainsbury's at the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds

Sainsbury's was established as a partnership in 1869 when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened a store at 173 Drury Lane in Holborn, London.[4] He started as a retailer of fresh foods and later expanded into packaged groceries such as tea and sugar. His trading philosophy, as stated on a sign outside his first shop in Islington, was "Quality perfect, prices lower".[5]

It was very innovative in that its stores, instead of featuring five own-brand lines like arch-rival Home and Colonial, it offered a wide range of own label lines in comparison. Instead of saw dust floors and wooden counters, Sainsbury's boasted marble counters, mosaic floors and white-tiled walls. Staff even had a uniform of white aprons. Stores started to look similar, so people could recognise them throughout London, a high cast iron 'J. SAINSBURY.' sign featured on every store so their stores could be seen on coaches and omnibuses,[6] and round-the-back deliveries started to add extra convenience and not upset rivals due to Sainsbury's popularity.[7]

In 1922 J Sainsbury was incorporated as a private company, as 'J. Sainsbury Limited', when it became the UK's largest grocery group.[8]

By this time each store had six departments: dairy, bacon and hams, poultry and game, cooked meats and fresh meats. Groceries were not introduced until 1903 when John James purchased a grocer's branch at 12 Kingsland High Street, Dalston. Home delivery featured in every store as there were fewer cars in those days. Sites were carefully chosen, with a central position in a parade selected in preference to a corner shop. This allowed a larger display of products, which could be kept cooler in summer, which was important as there was no refrigeration.[9]

By the time John James Sainsbury died in 1928, there were 128 shops. His last words were said to be 'Keep the shops well lit', and he was replaced by his eldest son, John Benjamin Sainsbury, who went into partnership with his father in 1915.[10]

The Interwar years and the Second World War

During the 1930s and 1940s, with the company now run by John James Sainsbury's eldest son, John Benjamin Sainsbury, the company continued to refine its product offer and maintain its leadership in terms of store design, convenience and cleanliness.[11] The company acquired the Midlands-based Thoroughgood chain in 1936.[12]

Alan Sainsbury, the founder's grandson (later Lord Sainsbury of Drury Lane) became joint managing director of Sainsbury's along with his brother Sir Robert Sainsbury in 1938 after their father, John Benjamin Sainsbury, had a minor heart attack.[13]

Following the outbreak of World War II, many of the men that worked for Sainsbury's were called to do National Service and were replaced by women. Given Sainsbury's reputation for quality foods at fair prices, the Second World War were difficult times for Sainsbury's, as with most of its stores trading in the London area, a lot of them got bombed or damaged. Turnover fell to half the pre-war level. Food was rationed, and one particular store in East Grinstead was so badly damaged on Friday 9 July 1943, that it had to move to the local Church as a temporary replacement, whilst a new one was built. This store was not completed until 1951.[14]

Pioneering self-service supermarkets

In 1956, Alan Sainsbury became Chairman after his father, John Benjamin Sainsbury's death.[13] During the 1950s and 1960s Sainsbury's pioneered self-service supermarkets. On a trip to the United States of America, Alan Sainsbury realised the benefits of self-service stores, and believed the future of Sainsbury's was self-service supermarkets of 10,000 sq ft (930 m2), with eventually the added bonus of a car park for extra convenience.[15] The first self-service branch opened in Croydon in 1950.[16]

Sainsbury's was a pioneer in the development of own-brand goods; the aim was to offer products that matched the quality of nationally branded goods, but at a lower price.[17] It expanded more cautiously than Tesco, shunning acquisitions, and it never offered trading stamps.[18]

Sainsbury's heyday

Until the company went public on 12 July 1973, as J Sainsbury plc, the company was wholly owned by the Sainsbury family. It was at the time the largest ever flotation on the London Stock Exchange;[19] the company rewarded the smaller bids for shares in order to create as many shareholders as possible. A million shares were set aside for staff, which led to many staff members buying shares that shot up in value. Within one minute the list of applications was closed: £495 million had been offered for £14.5 million available shares. The Sainsbury family at the time retained 85% of the firm's shares. The feverish press that surrounded the flotation greatly enhanced the company's new dynamic image.

The company benefited, too, from a consistency of management stemming from family ownership and control. The fact that it did not go public until 1973 was not a disadvantage; unlike Tesco, Sainsbury's grew organically rather than by takeovers, and, at least during this period, did not need to use its shares as an acquisition currency. Sainsbury's had the advantage, shared to some extent by Tesco, of a strong market position in London and the South East.

Most of the senior positions were held by family members; John Davan Sainsbury (later Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover),[20] a member of the fourth generation of the founding family, took over the chairmanship from his uncle Sir Robert Sainsbury in 1969, who had been chairman for two years from 1967 following Alan Sainsbury's retirement.

Sainsbury's started to replace its 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) High Street stores with self-service supermarkets above 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2), which were either in out-of-town locations or in regenerated town centres. Sainsbury's policy was to invest in uniform, well-designed stores with a strong emphasis on quality; its slogan was "good food costs less at Sainsbury's".[21] During the 1970s the average size of Sainsbury's stores rose from 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) to around 18,000 sq ft (1,700 m2); the first edge-of-town store, with 24,000 sq ft (2,200 m2) of selling space, was opened in Cambridge in 1974. The last counter service branch closed in Peckham in 1982.[22]

Although these larger stores contained some non-food items, they were not intended to match what Asda had been doing in the north; Sainsbury's focused more single-mindedly on food.

To participate in the hypermarket sector, Sainsbury's formed a joint venture, known as SavaCentre, with British Home Stores. The first SavaCentre store was opened in Washington, Tyne and Wear, in 1977;[23] nearly half the space, amounting to some 35,000 sq ft (3,300 m2), was devoted to textiles, electrical goods and hardware. As the hypermarket format became more mainstream, with rivals such as Asda and Tesco launching ever-larger stores, it was decided that a separate brand was no longer needed and the stores were converted to the regular Sainsbury's superstore format in 1999.[24] This is in direct contrast to rival firms Tesco and Asda, which have been rapidly expanding their Tesco Extra and Asda Wal-Mart Supercentre hypermarket formats in recent years.

Another diversification took place in 1979, when Sainsbury's formed a joint venture with the Belgian retailer, GB-Inno-BM, to set up a chain of do-it-yourself stores under the Homebase name.[25] The plan was to open a DIY store with a supermarket-style layout. Homebase was tripled in size in 1995 with the acquisition of the rival Texas Homecare from the Ladbroke Group plc. Sainsbury's sold the Homebase chain in December 2000 in a two-fold deal worth £969 million. Sales of the chain of stores to venture capitalist Schroder Ventures generated £750 million and sale of 28 development sites, which had been earmarked for future Homebase stores, were sold for £219 million to rival B&Q's parent company, Kingfisher plc.[26]

The company's growth was still largely based on food, with only a modest contribution from the SavaCentre business (of which Sainsbury's took full control in 1989). There was, however, diversification outside the UK.

In November 1983 Sainsbury's purchased 21% of Shaw's Supermarkets, the second largest grocery group in the north-east United States. In June 1987, Sainsbury's acquired the rest of the company with the intention of creating a high-quality regional food retailing business based on the same principles as the UK-based operation.[27]

In 1985 the Chairman reported that over the preceding ten years profits had grown from £15 million to over £168 million, a compound annual rise of 30.4% – after allowing for inflation a real annual growth rate of 17.6%.[27]

During the 1980s the Company invested in new technology: the proportion of sales passing through EPOS scanning checkouts rose from 1% to 90%.[27]

Sainsbury's expanded its operation into Scotland with a store in Darnley opening in January 1992, (the SavaCentre at Cameron Toll in Edinburgh had opened in 1984). In June 1995 Sainsbury's announced its intention to move into the Northern Ireland market, until that point dominated by local companies.[28] Between December 1996 and December 1998 the company opened seven stores. Two others at Sprucefield, Lisburn and Holywood Exchange, Belfast would not open until 2003 due to protracted legal challenges. Sainsbury's move into Northern Ireland was undertaken in a very different way from that of Tesco. While Sainsbury's outlets were all new developments, Tesco (apart from one Tesco Metro) instead purchased existing chains from Associated British Foods (see Tesco Ireland).

In 1991, the group boasted a 12-year record of dividend increases of 20% or more and earnings per share had risen by as much for nearly as long.[29] Also in 1991 the company raised £489 million in new equity to fund the expansion of superstores.[29]

Sainsbury's downfall

In 1992 the long-time CEO John Davan Sainsbury retired and was succeeded as chairman and chief executive by his cousin, David Sainsbury (later Lord Sainsbury of Turville); this brought about a change in management style - David was more consensual and less hierarchical but not in strategy or in corporate beliefs about the company's place in the market.[29] Mistakes by David Sainsbury and his successors, Dino Adriano and Peter Davis, included the rejection of loyalty cards, the reluctance to move into non-food retailing, the indecision between whether to go quality or for value, "the sometimes brutal treatment of suppliers" which led to suppliers favouring Tesco over Sainsbury's and the unsuccessful John Cleese advertising campaign.[30]

At the end of 1993 it announced price cuts on 300 of its most popular own-label lines. Significantly, this came three months after Tesco had launched its Tesco Value line.[29] A few months later Sainsbury's announced that margins had fallen, that the pace of new superstore construction would slow down, and that it would write down the value of some of its properties.[29]

In 1994 Sainsbury's announced a new town-centre format, Sainsbury's Central, again a response to Tesco's Metro, which was already established in five locations.[29] Also in 1994 Sainsbury's lost the takeover battle for William Low (like Tesco, Sainsbury's had long been under-represented in Scotland).[31] Also that year David Sainsbury dismissed Tesco's clubcard initiative as 'an electronic version of Green Shield Stamps'; the company was soon forced to backtrack, introducing its own Reward Card 18 months later.[32]

For much of the 20th century Sainsbury's had been the market leader in the UK supermarket sector, but in 1996 it lost its place as the UK's largest grocer to Tesco.[33]

Some new ventures were successful, notably the launch of a retail bank, Sainsbury's Bank, in partnership with Bank of Scotland[34]

In addition to Shaw's, Sainsbury's bought a minority stake in another supermarket group, Giant Food, based in Washington DC,[35] although this shareholding was subsequently sold when Ahold of the Netherlands made a full bid for the company.

Sainsbury's also trebled the size of its Homebase do-it-yourself business in 1996 by buying Texas Homecare from Ladbroke for £290 million.[36]

In addition to expansion of larger formats and banking services, Sainsbury's decided to provide shopping services to small towns, which led to the construction of "Country Town" stores. These were small supermarkets which enabled large villages to get their weekly shopping without travelling to large out of town stores. These "Country Town" stores were opened mainly across the south east which is historically Sainsbury's strongest market. Potential sites were identified and finally stores were opened in Attleborough and Chipping Ongar(Essex) towards the end of 1998. The "Country Town" format may now be discontinued but the stores which were completed have now been brought up to standard with the rest of the companies portfolio and continue to trade strongly even with many having larger stores within 10 minutes travel from the ""Country Town" stores.

In 1996 the company reported its first fall in profits for 22 years. David Sainsbury announced management changes, involving the appointment of two chief executives, one in charge of UK supermarkets (Dino Adriano) and the other responsible for Homebase and the US (David Bremner).[37]

Finally, in 1998, David Sainsbury himself resigned from the company to pursue a career in politics.[38] He was succeeded as non-executive chairman by George Bull, who had been chairman of Diageo,[39] and Adriano was promoted to be Group Chief executive.[40]

Sainsbury's logo
(1960s - 1999)
Sainsbury's logo
(Current logo)

The brand re-launch

In June 1999 Sainsbury's unveiled its new corporate identity, which was developed by M&C Saatchi, which consisted of the current company logo (right), new corporate colours of "living orange" and blue, Interstate as the company's general use font, the new slogan "Making life taste better", which replaced their old slogan from the 1960s and new staff uniforms.[41][42] The strapline was dropped in May 2005 and replaced in September of that year by "Try something new today." While the Interstate font was used almost exclusively for many years, the company introduced another informal font in 2005 which is used in a wide range of advertising and literature.

In 1999 Sainsbury's acquired an 80.1% share of Egyptian Distribution Group SAE, a retailer in Egypt with 100 stores and 2,000 employees. However poor profitability led to the sale of this share in 2001.[43] On 8 October 1999 the CEO Dino Adriano lost control of the core UK supermarket business, instead assuming responsibility for the rest of the group. David Bremner became head of the UK supermarkets. This was "derided" by the city[44] and described as a "fudge".[45] On 14 January 2000 Sainsbury's reversed this decision by announcing the replacement of Adriano by Sir Peter Davis effective from March.[45]

Business Transformation Programme

Between 2000-2004, Sir Peter Davis was chief executive of Sainsbury's. Davis' appointment was well received by investors and analysts.[46] The appointment was only confirmed after Sainsbury's was sure of the support of the Sainsbury family, who snubbed Davis' offer of becoming chief executive in the early 1990s, following which he became Chief Executive of Prudential plc.

In his first two years he exceeded profit targets, although by 2004 the group had suffered a decline in performance relative to its competitors and was demoted to third in the UK grocery market. Davis also oversaw an almost £3 billion upgrade of stores, distribution and IT equipment, entitled 'Business Transformation Programme', but his successor would later reveal that much of this investment was wasted and he failed in his key goal - improving availability. Part of this investment saw the construction of four fully automated depots, which at £100 million each cost four times more than standard depots.[47]


In 2001, Sainsbury's moved into its current headquarters at Holborn, London. Sainsbury's previously occupied Stamford House and 12 other buildings around Southwark. However the accounting department remained separate at Streatham. The building was designed by architectural firm Foster and Partners and had been developed on the former Mirror Group site for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), however Sainsbury's acquired the 25 year lease when Accenture pulled out.[48]

Nectar loyalty card

Sainsbury's is a founding member of the Nectar loyalty card scheme, which was launched in late 2002 in conjunction with Debenhams, Barclaycard and BP.Since then both Debenhams and Barclaycard have left the scheme. The Nectar scheme replaced the Sainsbury's Reward Card; accrued points were transferred over.[49]

Safeway takeover

In 2003 Wm Morrison Supermarkets (trading as Morrisons) made an offer for the Safeway group, prompting a bidding war between the major supermarkets. The Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, referred the various bids to the Competition Commission which reported its findings on 26 September. The Commission found that all bids, with the exception of Morrison's, would "operate against the public interest". As part of the approval Morrison's was to dispose of 53 of the combined group's stores. In May 2004 Sainsbury's announced that it would acquire 14 of these stores (13 Safeway stores and 1 Morrison's outlet) located primarily in the Midlands and the North of England.[50]

New Chief Executive

At the end of March 2004 Davis was promoted to chairman and was replaced as CEO by Justin King. In June 2004 Davis was forced to quit in the face of an impending shareholder revolt over his salary and bonuses. Investors were angered by a bonus share award of over £2 million despite poor company performance. On 19 July 2004 Davis' replacement, Philip Hampton, was appointed as chairman.[51]

'Making Sainsbury's Great Again'

J Sainsbury HQ in Holborn Circus

Justin King joined Sainsbury's in 2004 from Marks and Spencer plc where he was a director with responsibility for its food division and Kings Super Markets, Inc. subsidiary in the United States.[52] Schooled in Solihull and a graduate of the University Of Bath, where he took a business administration degree, King was also previously a managing director at Asda with responsibility for hypermarkets.[52]

King ordered a direct mail campaign to 1 million Sainsbury's customers as part of his 6 month business review asking them what they wanted from the company and where the company could improve. This reaffirmed the commentary of retail analysts - the group was not ensuring that shelves are fully stocked, this due to the failure of the IT systems introduced by Peter Davis. On 19 October 2004 King unveiled the results of the business review and his plans to revive the company's fortunes - in a three year recovery plan entitled 'Making Sainsbury's Great Again'.[53] This was generally well received by both the stock market and the media. Immediate plans included laying off 750 headquarters staff and the recruitment of around 3,000 shop-floor staff to improve the quality of service and the firm's main problem: stock availability. The aim would be to increase sales revenue by £2.5 billion by the financial year ending March 2008. Another significant announcement was the halving of the dividend to increase funds available for price cuts and quality.[53]

King hired Lawrence Christensen as supply chain director in 2004. Previously he was an expert in logistics at Safeway, but left following its takeover by Morrisons. Immediate supply chain improvements included the reactivation of two distribution centres. In 2006 Christensen commented on the four automated depots introduced by Davis, saying "not a single day went by without one, if not all of them, breaking down... The systems were flawed. They have to stop for four hours every day for maintenance. But because they were constantly breaking down you would be playing catch up. It was a vicious circle."[47] Christensen said a fundamental mistake was to build four such depots at once, rather than building one which could be thoroughly tested before progressing with the others.[54] At the time of the business review on 19 October 2004, referring to the availability problems, Justin King said "Lawrence hadn't seen anything that he hadn't seen before. He just hadn't seen them all in the same place at the same time". In 2007 Sainsbury's announced a further £12 million investment in its depots to keep pace with sales growth and the removal of the failed automated systems from its depots.[55]

Sainsbury's sold its American subsidiary, Shaw's, to Albertsons in 2004.[56] Also in 2004 Sainsbury's expanded its share of the convenience store market through acquisitions. Bell's Stores, a 54 store chain based in north-east England was acquired in February 2004.[57] Jackson's Stores, a chain of 114 stores based in Yorkshire and the North Midlands, was purchased in August 2004.[58] JB Beaumont, a chain of 6 stores in the East Midlands was acquired in November 2004.[59] SL Shaw Ltd, which owned six stores was acquired on 28 April 2005 for £6 million.[60]

Since the launch of King's recovery programme, the company has reported nineteen consecutive quarters of sales growth, most recently in October 2009.[61] Early sales increases were credited to solving problems with the company's distribution system.[62] More recent sales improvements have been put down to price cuts and the company's focus on fresh and healthy food.[63]

Private equity takeover bid

On 2 February 2007, after months of speculation about a private equity bid, CVC Capital Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Blackstone Group announced that they were considering a bid for Sainsbury's.[64] The consortium grew to include Goldman Sachs and Texas Pacific Group. On 6 March 2007, with a formal bid yet to be tabled, the Takeover Panel issued a bid deadline of 13 April.[65]

On 4 April KKR left the consortium to focus on its bid for Alliance Boots.[66] On 5 April the consortium submitted an "indicative offer" of 562p a share to the company's board. After discussions between Sir Philip Hampton and the two largest Sainsbury family shareholders Lord Sainsbury of Turville and Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover the offer was rejected.[66] On 9 April the indicative offer was raised to 582p a share, however this too was rejected. This meant the consortium could not satisfy its own preconditions for a bid, most importantly 75% shareholder support; the combined Sainsbury family holding at the time was 18%.[67]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, who then held 7.75% of Sainsbury's, stated that he could see no reason why the Sainsbury's board would even consider opening its books for due diligence for anything less than 600p per share.[68] Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, with just under 3%, was more extreme than his cousin, and refused to sell at any price.[69] He believed any offer at that stage of Sainsbury's recovery was likely to undervalue the business,[68] and with private equity seeking high returns on their investments, saw no reason to sell, given that the current management, led by Justin King, could deliver the extra profit generated for the benefit of existing investors.[70] He claimed the bid 'brought nothing to the business', and that high levels of debt would significantly weaken the company and its competitive position in the long-term, which would have an adverse effect on Sainsbury's stakeholders.[71]

On 11 April the CVC-led consortium abandoned its offer, stating "it became clear the consortium would be unable to make a proposal that would result in a successful offer."[67]

Recovery to growth

In May 2007 Sainsbury's identified five areas of focus to take the company from recovery to growth:[72]

  • "Great food at fair prices"
  • Growth of non-food ranges
  • "Reaching more customers through additional channels" through opening of new convenience stores and growth of online home delivery and banking operations.
  • Expansion of supermarket space through new stores and development of the company's "largely underdeveloped store portfolio".
  • "Active property management"

Delta Two takeover bid

On 25 April 2007 Delta Two, a Qatari investment company, bought a 14% stake in Sainsbury's causing its share price to rise 7.17%, which was then upped to 17.6%. Their interest in Sainsbury's is thought to centre on its property portfolio. They increased their stake to 25% in June 2007.[73]

On 18 July 2007 BBC News reported that Delta Two had tabled a conditional bid proposal.[74]

Paul Taylor, the principal of Delta Two, flew David and John Sainsbury to Sardinia to reveal and discuss the potential bid which amounted to 600p per share.[75]

The family had reservations about the price of the bid. Secondly, they were concerned about the proposed structure which involved splitting the business into an operating company and a highly-leveraged property company. Thirdly, they were concerned about adequacy of funding both for the bid and for the company's pension scheme.[76]

On 5 November 2007 it was announced Delta Two had abandoned its takeover bid due to the "deterioration of credit markets" and concerns about funding the company's pension scheme.[77]

Recent developments

Sainsbury's in the former Allders branch on The Headrow in Leeds city centre.

On 4 October 2007 Sainsbury's announced plans to relocate its Store Support Centre from Holborn to Kings Cross in 2011. The new office will be part of a new complex to allow for both cost savings and energy efficiency. These savings will be made through the use of efficient building materials and design, a combined heat and power energy centre and the use of renewable energy sources.[78]

In January 2008 Sainsbury's brought its number of Northern Ireland supermarkets to 11 with the purchase of two Curley's Supermarkets in Dungannnon and Belfast, which includes those stores' petrol stations and off licences.[79][80][81]

In March 2009 Sainsbury's announced they were buying 24 stores from The Co-operative, 22 of which were Somerfield stores and the remaining 2 were Co-op stores: these are part of their estate which The Co-operative were required to sell following the completion of the Somerfield takeover.[82]

A further 9 stores were purchased from The Co-operative in June 2009. These were concentrated in west Wales, the north of England and Scotland where Sainsbury's market share is low. In November 2007, Sainsburys centralised their HR department, relocating to the 17th and 18th floors of Manchester's Arndale Centre to form a Shared Service Centre which was initially trialled to deal with Recruitment in Scotland and was later rolled out to the whole country.

July 2009 saw the HR Shared Service Centre in Manchester expand to include most HR Processes in their Colleague Administration Department and Occupational Health enquiries in a dedicated unit.

Financial performance

Year end Sales(£m) Pre tax profit(£m) Profit for year(£m) Basic eps (p)
21 March 20091 20,383 466 289 16.6
22 March 20081 19,287 479 329 19.1
24 March 20071 18,227 477 324 19.2
25 March 20061 16,061 104 58 ³ 3.8
26 March 20051 15,409 15 614 3.5
27 March 20041 17,141 610 396 20.7
29 March 20031 17,079 667 454 23.7
30 March 20021 17,162 571 364 19.1
31 March 20011 17,244 437 276 14.5
1 April 20001 16,271 509 349 18.3
3 April 19992 16,433 888 598 31.4
7 March 19981 14,500 719 487 26.1
8 March 19971 13,395 609 403 22.0
9 March 19961 12,672 712 488 26.8
11 March 19951 11,357 809 536 29.8
12 March 19941 10,583 369 142 8.0
13 March 19931 9,686 733 503 28.5
14 March 19921 8,696 628 438 25.7
16 March 19911 7,813 518 355 23.6
17 March 19901 6,930 451 314 20.8
  1. denotes 52 weeks
  2. denotes 56 weeks
  3. "One off operating costs" of £152 million incurred. This includes £63 million to terminate the IT outsourcing contract with Accenture.
  4. £168 million before exceptional costs (cost of "turnaround" plan and write off of excess merchandise etc.)

Current operations

Sainsbury's currently operates 785 hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores. This is split down as 509 supermarkets and 276 convenience stores. It also operates Sainsbury's Bank, which sells financial services, and is a joint venture with HBOS; Sainsbury's Online internet shopping services; and has a property portfolio worth £8.6 billion (as of March 2007).

It is the Second largest supermarket chain in the UK (since 2009), and places an emphasis on a higher quality grocery offering compared to its other large rivals.

According to Taylor Nelson Sofres rankings published in January 2008, Sainsbury's market share was 16.4% compared to Tesco's 31.5%, Asda's 16.7% and Morrison's 11.4%.[83]

According to CACI, as of 2006, Sainsbury's has market dominance in 8 postcode areas; TQ (Torquay), SN (Swindon), GU (Guildford), RH (Redhill), DA (Dartford), SE (South East London), EN (Enfield) and WV (Wolverhampton).[84]

It is particularly strong in London and the South-East, where it is based, and although it has a national store portfolio, it is biased towards the South-East.

Store formats

Sainsbury's Holywood Exchange, the company's eighth Northern Irish store.
Sainsbury's checkouts, showing the 'Greenwich Blue' colour scheme

The supermarket chain operates three main store formats; regular Sainsbury's stores ('Main Mission'), Sainsbury's Local and Sainsbury's Central (convenience stores and smaller supermarkets in urban locations - 'Mixed Mission') and Sainsbury's 'Main Plus' (hypermarket) stores. Unlike Tesco (Tesco Extra) and Asda (Asda Wal-Mart Supercentre), Sainsbury's does not employ a separate brand for its hypermarkets, having phased out the 'Savacentre' fascia several years ago.

At the end of its 2008/09 financial year Sainsbury's store portfolio was as follows.[85]

Format Number Area (ft²) Area (m²) Percentage of space
Supermarkets 502 15,974,000 1,484,000 95.6%
Convenience stores 290 729,000 67,700 4.4%
Total 792 16,703,000 1,551,700 100.0%

Traditionally, the majority of Sainsbury's stores were located in the areas around London and south-east England. The company acquired the Midlands-based Thoroughgood in the 1930s. Expansion since 1945 has given the company national reach, although the chain is not as represented in Scotland as other chains such as Tesco, and Morrisons (as Safeway dominated Scotland before being taken over by that company). This is partly due to the fact that Sainsbury's lost out to Tesco in the bidding war for William Low in the 1990s.

Since 1999, Sainsbury's stores have received a new look. The old 'J Sainsbury' name, used in various forms since 1869, was scrapped and replaced by 'Sainsbury's'. Most stores were refurbished with dark blue walls, bright orange wall panels and grey shelving, as well as new checkouts. Individual counters also have different brightly coloured panels behind them. The new flagship store in Greenwich, South London, was the first to receive this new look, leading to the term 'Greenwich Blue', which is used to describe the signature colour of a typical store. This format was subsequently rolled out across the entire store estate.

Following the introduction of the 'Try something new today' slogan in 2005, stores were again refurbished with cream walls, and dark red and dark blue signage, along with cream coloured shelving and checkouts. New purple-coloured staff uniforms have been introduced to all stores.

As of 2009, some stores still bear the old 'J Sainsbury' logo on external signage, including one branch in Princess Square, Bracknell, another in the centre of Welwyn Garden City, and the branch in Kirkcaldy, which opened in 1997.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets

Interior of Sainsbury's Gloucester Quays store

The largest format of stores is internally branded 'Main Plus'. These are hypermarkets, which between 1977 and 2005 were branded as 'Sainsbury's SavaCentre'. However, as they got more integrated into the main chain, these stores were re-branded under the main Sainsbury's brand. This happened both in terms of back-office administration (the SavaCentre HQ In Wokingham closed down in the 1990s) and in terms of store decoration, (which became identical to the Sainsbury's 'Main Mission' outlets). They occupy a wide range of both grocery and non-food, as a 50:50 split similar to Tesco Extra, and can therefore accommodate the weekly shop and more. These large stores have over 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m2) of sales area, and original SavaCentre's include Merton, London Colney and Sydenham in London, and Calcot in Reading. A large 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) 'Main Plus' store has been confirmed for Slough, on the site of the old Co-op store[86] which Tesco used while they were building their controversial 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) Extra store, currently the largest in the UK.

The core 'Main Mission' store format, which is a typical Sainsbury's supermarket, is between 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2) and 48,000 sq ft (4,500 m2). The average size of a Sainsbury's supermarket is 34,000 sq ft (3,200 m2), the lowest amongst the 'Big Four'. This is because Sainsbury's were criticised for not building larger stores and extending its SavaCentre format in the 1990s. They concentrate on the weekly family shop. Food and non-food are split two thirds and one-third respectively. Typical counters include Hot Food, Fishmonger, Butcher, Delicatessen, Bakery and Salad Bar.

Both of the above formats trade simply as Sainsbury's, so you cannot tell which format you are in unless you know what to look for. Customers will notice a larger product range, particularly non-food in a 'Main Plus' store. Sainsbury's now has many large stores, especially its Flagship Stores, such as Southampton (Hedge End), London (Colney), London (Greenwich) and Hayes (Middlesex).

The most northern Sainsbury's store is the Berryden Road store in Aberdeen.

Convenience stores

Most of the major chains: Sainsbury's, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Somerfield and The Co-operative operate convenience stores; as of 2008, Asda and Morrisons do not have presence in this area of the market.

The 'Mixed Mission' format incorporates the Sainsbury's Central and Sainsbury's Local formats. Sainsbury's Central stores are between 7,000 sq ft (650 m2) and 20,000 sq ft (1,900 m2), which is a mini supermarket, and Sainsbury's Local stores are between 2,000 sq ft (190 m2) and 6,000 sq ft (560 m2) in size, carrying a top-up shop and grab-and-go offer. Sainsbury's Local stores have different decoration to the other two formats - 'Main Mission' and 'Main Plus'.

The Sainsbury's Local stores on Shell petrol forecourts are set to close down due to being unprofitable.

Sainsbury's Central will eventually be phased out, to be replaced by the Sainsbury's 'Main Mission' format. This was announced in 2004, but several Sainsbury's Central stores, including Croydon, Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Cardiff Queen Street, Glasgow and Reading, have yet to be refurbished and converted.

As well as its own Local and Central stores Sainsbury's has expanded through acquisition of existing chains (Bell's Stores, Jackson's Stores, JB Beaumont, and SL Shaw Ltd).

Sainsbury's initially retained the strong Bells and Jacksons brands. For example, refurbished stores were called Sainsbury's at Bells or Sainsbury's at Jacksons. These were effectively Sainsbury's Local stores with a revised fascia, retaining some features of the former local chain. Unrefurbished stores retained the original brand and logo, but still offered Sainsbury's own brand products, pricing and some point of sale, without accepting Nectar cards. The old websites were also retained with some Sainsbury's branding.

This was an experimental format and on 4 May 2007 it was announced that all stores would be re branded as Sainsbury's Local, with the management teams of the smaller stores integrated into Sainsbury's own teams.[87]

The most northern Sainsbury's Local is the St Nicholas Centre store in Aberdeen, which opened Friday 12 March 2010.

Marketing and branding

Since 2000 Jamie Oliver has been the public face of Sainsbury's, appearing on television and radio advertisements and in-store promotional material. The deal earns him an estimated £1.2 million every year. In the first two years these advertisements are estimated to have given Sainsbury's an extra £1 billion of sales or £200 million gross profit.[88]

A Sainsbury's Active Kids banner outside a school. Tokens are collected at stores, and are redeemed for sports equipment.

Sainsbury's currently uses the "Try something new today" slogan which was launched in an effort to make consumers venture into purchasing more varied goods. The television adverts are also often accompanied by The Polyphonic Spree's Light & Day. Over the years, Sainsbury's has used many slogans:

  • "Quality perfect, Prices Lower" The slogan used on the shop-front of the Islington store in 1882.
  • "Sainsbury's For Quality, Sainsbury's For Value"- Used in 1918 above the Drury Lane store.
  • "Sainsbury's. Essentials for the Essentials."
  • "Good Food Costs Less At Sainsbury's" — Used from the 1960s to the 1990s. Described by BBC News as "probably the best-known advertising slogan in retailing." [89]
  • "Sainsbury's - Everyone's Favourite Ingredient" — Used in a series of TV commercials in the 1990s which featured celebrities cooking Sainsbury's food.
  • "Fresh food, fresh ideas. Eat healthy"-used in 1998
  • "Value to shout about" — A 1998/1999 campaign fronted by John Cleese which was widely claimed to have been a major mistake. Sainsbury's said it actually depressed sales. However, the company had been losing sales for years because of the rise of rival Tesco.[90]
  • "Making Life Taste Better" Introduced 1999 and used until May 2005.
  • "Try something new today" Introduced in September 2005. Replaced on carrier bags, till receipts and all other corporate branding from this point.

In 2008 they created a shopping incentive by showing that, when shopping at Sainsbury's, you can feed your family for only five pounds. The incentive, called "Feed your family for a fiver", with the flagship of "Meatballs 'n' More" has been advertised on British television channels, with Jamie Oliver cooking for a family.

Sainsbury's Active Kids is a loyalty voucher scheme by Sainsbury's.

Product ranges

The own label Basics range is its low cost products

A large store typically stocks around 50,000 lines of which around 20% are "own-label" goods. These own-brand lines include:

  • Basics: an economy range of around 500 lines, mainly food but also including other areas such as toiletries and stationery. The Basics range uses minimal packaging with simple orange and white designs, to keep the price as low as possible. Sainsbury's Local stores sell none or very few of these lines. Equivalent to Tesco's Value, Asda's Smart price and Morrison's Value
  • Taste the Difference (TTD): around 1100 premium food lines, including many processed foods such as ready made meals and premium bakery lines. TTD lines are similar to Asda's 'Extra Special', Tesco 'Finest' and Morrison's 'The Best'.
  • Different by Design: a smaller range of premium non-food lines, including flowers which were previously branded "Orlando Hamilton".
  • Kids: these lines are for children. In 2006 these lines replaced the Blue Parrot Café range.
  • Be Good To Yourself (BGTY): products with reduced calorific and/or fat content. All BGTY packaging was relaunched in January 2010.
  • Freefrom: launched in February 2010, it has over 75 product lines.[91] These products are suitable for those allergic to dairy products. (The majority of these are dairy and gluten/wheat free)
  • Sainsbury's Organic (SO Organic): Around 500 lines of food / drink which is not derived from food stuffs treated with fertiliser or pesticides.
  • Fair Trade: Over 100 fair trade products.[92] - All bananas sold at Sainsbury's are now fair trade. The own-brand tea and coffee is being converted to Fairtrade over the next three years.[93]
  • Super NaturalsTM: A range of ready meals with healthy ingredients. <Discontinued>
  • TU - own brand clothing range, which replaced the Jeff Banks designed range, Jeff & Co.
  • TU Home - a range of home products, such as lighting, rugs, and kitchen products. This range has now been rolled out to most stores stocking non-food ranges.


Treatment of overseas workers

In a 2006 report the British anti-poverty charity War on Want revealed how Kenyan workers supplying Sainsbury's with cut flowers face appalling conditions and poverty wages.[94]

Labelling produce

In a 2006 report War on Want brought to light that Sainsbury's and other top UK supermarkets sold produce labelled 'Made in Israel' but actually produced in illegal settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.[95]

Online service

Sainsbury's operates an internet shopping service branded as "Sainsbury's Online". To use this service customers choose their grocery items online. Pickers then collect the required items which are delivered to customers from a local store by van. This is available to about 75% of the UK population. The service is run from larger stores which carry the full product range - over 100 stores operate an Online service.

It was previously called 'Sainsbury's to You' and 'Sainsbury's entertain You', and prior to that it was called 'Sainsbury's Orderline'.

Prior to September 2007, and in common with other UK supermarkets with an online shopping and delivery service such as Tesco or Ocado, Sainsbury's Online delivery staff would carry items direct to customers' kitchens. However, from September 2007, delivery staff were instructed to hand over goods at the front door and to not enter customers' houses. According to a Sainsbury's spokesperson this is due to Sainsbury's no longer having insurance which covers their staff when entering people's homes.

Sainsbury's Bank

In 1997 Sainsbury's Bank was established - a joint venture between J Sainsbury plc and the Bank of Scotland, now part of the Lloyds Banking Group. Services offered include car, life, home, pet and travel insurance as well as health cover, loans, credit cards, savings accounts and ISAs.


Sainsbury's supply chain operates from ten regional distribution centres (RDCs), with two national distribution centres for slower moving goods at Stoke and Rye Park, and two frozen food facilities, at Elstree and Stone. In addition, the depot at Rugby tranships floral and general merchandise to the RDCs, and Pindar Road depot tranships merchandising units.[96] Each depot is given a "Depot Code".

During 2008 work started on ripping out the automated ambient processes at Hams Hall [97] when the ambient processes will return to Hams Hall and will be completed in a traditional manual process. The chill continues to be picked via a mix of manual and automated processes. A similar change happened at the Waltham Point RDC in 2007.

++ Sherburn is a former Somerfield depot bought in 2008 and is intended to take over the work of the Maltby Depot which will close.

Sainsbury's also has a depot called Buntingford. This depot is usually not in operation; however Sainsbury's still own the site and continue to use the depot at busy times, particularly at Christmas when Waltham Point gets very busy. Buntingford is ready for use as an emergency depot for the rest of the year.

Originally Sainsbury's ran its own distribution network. However after an industrial dispute with their drivers in the 1970s, and with the intention of streamlining and consolidation, much of the distribution is now contracted out - to distribution specialists such as TDG, DHL/Exel Distribution and NFT.

Sainsbury's drivers are employed on flexi-contracts. The staff split is 20% Agency Staff and 80% Sainsbury's staff.

See also


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External links

Simple English

Sainsbury's is a supermarket chain based in the United Kingdom. Sainsbury's originally sold only food, but it now sells other things like mobile phones, DVDs, videos, clothing and books. Sainsbury's is the third biggest supermarket in the UK (behind Tesco and Asda). The clothing range at Sainsbury's has changed a lot over the years. It started off with, Jeff & Co, then another range was brought in, after that Adams Kids. Now it's called TU. In 2008 150,000 people worked in Sainsbury's.


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