What is the largest supermarket chain in the UK?

I think Tesco is trying to tell us something (Photo by Craig Murphy CC-BY-2.0)

I think Tesco is trying to tell us something (Photo by Craig Murphy CC-BY-2.0)

Supermarkets are now found in nearly all towns and cities in Britain and they have fundamentally changed the way we shop. They have also changed the look of our high streets, and as some argue, are causing the disappearance of small independent shops.

The four largest supermarket chains are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Safeway. The largest of these is Tesco. Founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen, it started off as a market stall in the East End of London. The first store was opened in 1929, and the first self-service supermarket opened in a converted cinema in 1956. By 1979 the company reached £1bn annual sales, and in 1982, £2bn.

Tesco now has the largest market share at around 31%, way ahead of its nearest rival Sainsbury’s at around 14%. Its last six months sales were £20,651m, earning a trading profit of 1,155m.

Tesco has 2,282 stores throughout UK. They have the greatest number of stores which sell both food and non-food items. These stores are in various formats.

961 Express stores which occupy up to 3,000 square feet. Many are located in petrol stations and similar locations, they are designed as convenience stores for customers to top-up weekly shopping requirements.

174 Metro stores (approx. 7,000-15,000 sq ft) based in the centre of cities and towns offering busy office workers the chance to shop near their place of work and to buy ready-made means and sandwiches.

448 Superstores (approx. 20,000-50,000 sq ft) which are the standard supermarket found in the chain, and Extra (approx. 60,000 sq ft and above). All of these also offer a wide range of non-food items.

10 Homeplus stores which are dedicated to selling clothing and other non-food items.

Finally, the purchase of 512 stores of the OneStop brand has brought additional stores into the category of convenience stores.

Tesco is an important employer in the sector. They employ 286,394 part and full time staff.

Tesco has responded to the internet age by establishing Tesco Direct where you can order groceries and non-food items online and have them delivered to your home.

The company also have a loyalty scheme named Clubcard where customers receive 2 points for every £1 they spend with Tesco. They can then buy items from Tesco with the points earned.

The company is branching out into financial services and it was recently announced that the financial services subsidiary would now be called Tesco Bank.

The company now have a strong international presence with 2026 stores based in China, Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Japan, Malaysia, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and USA.

Tesco facts dated May 2009.


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