1919 & 1920s
Made in London
From market stall to the UK's biggest supermarket
Jack Cohen began selling surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London in 1919. He left the Royal Flying Corp at the end of the Great War and used his demob money to buy the first day's stock. From day one, Jack believed in putting affordable food in the reach of everybody. At the end of the first day Jack Cohen made a profit of £1 on sales of £4.
profit made by Jack
Jack Cohen opened the first Tesco store in Burnt Oak, Edgware, north London. The store sold great value dry goods and the first ever branded product, which, unsurprisingly, was Tesco Tea!
Jack Cohen bought a plot of land at Angel Road, Edmonton, north London to build a new headquarters and warehouse. It was the first modern food warehouse in the country. New ideas for stock control brought greater savings for customers.
The 1930s saw Jack Cohen buying stores and growing the business. Tesco expanded across London, into the suburbs and neighbouring counties.
Tesco Stores (Holdings) was floated on the stock exchange with a share price of 25 pence.
Jack Cohen decided to venture into self-service following a research visit to North America. The first of these new stores opened in St Albans, Hertfordshire in 1948 with a mixed reaction from customers at first.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
We bought 19 Burnards stores. Over the next five years, 500 new stores were purchased.
new stores in five years
The first supermarket opened in Maldon, Essex. The new format store included a counter service selling cheese, butter and meats weighed by sales assistants.
To help lower prices throughout the home, we started selling household goods and clothing in our stores. We also acquired 212 branches of Irwin stores in the north of England.
branches of Irwin stores acquired
Green Shield stamps were introduced. Stamps collected at the checkout could be exchanged for a range of great value goods from a Green Shield catalogue.
The term 'Superstore' was first used when we opened our store in Crawley, West Sussex. It was 40,000 sq. ft. in size and sold food and non-food goods. In the same year, we bought the Victor Value chain.
Bringing competitive prices to the UK’s motorists by introducing petrol stations at major sites.
A major price-cutting initiative called ‘Checkout at Tesco’ was introduced. It improved on the value offer to customers as we concentrated on lower prices. Green Shield stamps were phased out.
Our founder, Jack Cohen, passed away.
‘Checkout 82’ was launched by Sir Ian MacLaurin. Prices were cut by between 3% and 26% on 1,500 food items.
prices cut between 3% and 26%
We launched our own-brand healthy eating range. We were the first major retailer in the UK to introduce healthy own-brand products at affordable prices.
Sir Dudley Moore starred in a high profile ad campaign highlighting our great range of high quality affordable products.
Computers for Schools was launched. Since 1992, the scheme has raised £185 million worth of equipment for schools around the UK.
of equipment for schools in the UK
The first Tesco Metro opened in Covent Garden. The new, smaller format brought value into the heart of towns and cities. Tesco would launch other formats including ‘Tesco Express’ and ‘Tesco Extra’ later in the decade. Our Extras brought new homeware and electrical goods to customers.
Tesco Value launched offering our customers a wider choice of products at great prices.
The Every Little Helps strapline was launched. The new campaign attracted 1.3 million new customers between 1993 and 1995.
new customers in two years
We became the first UK retailer to offer customers a service commitment at the checkouts through the 'One in Front' initiative.
Expansion into Central Europe with stores opening in Hungary. Within a decade we would open stores in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ireland, Thailand and Malaysia, and enter India.
The Tesco Clubcard was launched and attracted nearly five million customers in the first year. With the introduction of Clubcard, Tesco overtook Sainsbury's in market share.
Clubcard customers in the first year
Tesco Personal Finance launched. New saving accounts exceeded all expectations and over 300,000 applications were received.
We developed and launched our Finest range, which was aimed at filling the gap in the market for our more affluent customers.
Tesco.com was launched. The website has grown to serve over 20,000,000 customers visiting the site every month.
Florence & Fred (F&F) brings a stylish new and affordable range of clothing to Tesco customers.
We’ve supported Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life for the last 18 years. Hundreds of thousands of our colleagues and customers have taken part in Race for Life events, helping to raise money to support vital research.
We bought the UK's second largest convenience store chain, One Stop.
Tesco Mobile is a joint venture with O2, with over five million customers across the UK. Originally launched as a Pay As You Go service, Tesco Mobile now additionally offers No-Contract Sim and Pay Monthly deals, operating exclusively online and in 500 phone shops.
Clubcard was relaunched in the UK with a £150 million investment, offering customers the chance to double up their vouchers.
Tesco launched the new Everyday Value range to replace Tesco Value. The new products focus on three main areas: quality, providing healthier options for our customers and packaging improvements that help customers identify the products on the shelves.
In the first week of December, we work with FareShare and The Trussell Trust on the UK’s biggest food collection, encouraging customers to donate long life food to charity and vulnerable people in need. The Tesco Food Collection includes customer donations, food donated to our permanent food collection points, and a 20% top-up from Tesco on all donations received.
We launched our Bags of Help scheme, with money raised from the 5p bag charge in England, Scotland and Wales being used to fund projects to create or improve green spaces in local communities. In the first year of the government bag charge, Tesco customers in England saved over 1.5 billion single-use bags.
single-use carrier bags saved by Tesco customers in England in the first year
Our Community Food Connection scheme, in partnership with food redistribution charity FareShare, provides free, surplus food every day to local charities and communities. The scheme is the biggest supermarket food redistribution scheme in the UK, and runs across all of our UK stores.
Tesco begins offering free fruit for children in stores. The aim is to create healthy eating values that will stay with kids as well as making it easier for children to get the fruit they need.
We launched eight fresh food brands, including Redmere Farms and Boswell Farms, offering quality, fresh produce at low prices. We’ve continued to add to these own brands by introducing a further eight new ‘Exclusively at Tesco’ brands in 2018 including Stockwell & Co, Ms Molly’s, Hearty Food Co., Creamfields, Eastman’s, H.W. Neville, Butcher’s Choice and The Grower’s Harvest.
Wholesaler Booker Group merges with Tesco. The two companies bring together retail and wholesale expertise to create the UK’s leading food business. The merger opens up opportunities for our business wherever food is prepared and eaten, ‘in home’ or ‘out of home’ and will bring value to customers, suppliers, colleagues and shareholders.
Tesco launches Jack's to celebrate 100 years of great value at Tesco. A new brand, and stores, inspired by the original value champion Jack Cohen - bringing customers great-tasting food at the lowest possible prices.
The Tesco Community Cookery School with Jamie Oliver, which has been developed in partnership with FareShare, will help community groups by offering training and advice on how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals out of surplus food donations, to stop good food going to waste.