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J Sainsbury plc
Type Public
Traded as LSE SBRY
Industry Retailing
Founded 1869
Headquarters 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT, United Kingdom
Number of locations 1,012 (As at March 2012)
Key people David Tyler
( Chairman)
Justin King
( Chief Executive)
Products Convenience/forecourt store, hypermarket/ supercenter/ superstore, supermarket
Revenue £22.294 billion (2012)
Operating income £874 million (2012)
Net income £598 million (2012)
Employees 152,000 (2012)
Subsidiaries Sainsbury's Bank Plc
Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd.
Sainsbury's Convenience Stores Ltd.
Website Corporate Website
Consumer Website

J Sainsbury plc is the parent company of Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd, commonly known as Sainsbury's, the third largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom with a share of the UK supermarket sector of 16.5%. The group's head office is in the Sainsbury's Store Support Centre in Holborn Circus, City of London. The group also has interests in property and banking.

Sainsbury's was founded in 1869 by John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann Sainsbury (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 had its heyday 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.

As of May 2011 the largest Sainsbury family shareholders are Lord Sainsbury of Turville with 4.99%, with Judith Portrait the trustee of various Sainsbury settlements and charitable trusts holding 3.92%. The largest overall shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, the Qatar Investment Authority, who hold 25.999% of the company.

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


Sainsbury's in Winchester

The Victorian era

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. 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".

Sainsbury's in Alphington, Exeter

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 sawdust 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, and round-the-back deliveries started to add extra convenience and not upset rivals due to Sainsbury's popularity.

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

Sainsbury's in Shirley, Southampton

By this time each store had six departments: dairy, bacon and hams, poultry and game, cooked meats and fresh meats. Groceries had not been 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.

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'. He was replaced by his eldest son, John Benjamin Sainsbury, who had gone into partnership with his father in 1915.

The Interwar years and the Second World War

Sainsbury's Holywood Exchange, the company's eighth Northern Irish store.

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. The company acquired the Midlands-based Thoroughgood chain in 1936.

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.

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, were 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.

Pioneering self-service supermarkets

In 1956, Alan Sainsbury became chairman after his father, John Benjamin Sainsbury's death. During the 1950s and 1960s Sainsbury's pioneered self-service supermarkets in the UK. 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. The first self-service branch opened in Croydon in 1950.

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. It expanded more cautiously than Tesco, shunning acquisitions, and it never offered trading stamps.

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; 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.

Sainsbury's in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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), 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". 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.

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; 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. 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. 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 twofold 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.

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 northeastern United States (primarily in New England). 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.

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%.

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

With the advent of out of town shopping complexes during the 1980s, Sainsbury's was one of the many big retail names to open new stores in such complexes – notably with its store at the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, Sheffield (originally as a SavaCentre) in 1990, which was converted into a regular Sainsbury store in 2005, and was closed in 2006 and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre at Brierley Hill in the West Midlands (part of an Enterprise Zone), which opened in September 1989 to replace a store in Dudley town centre. The success of the Merry Hill store, combined with the onset of the recession resulted in a fall in trade at the nearby store in Halesowen, which closed in 1992.

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. 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. Also in 1991 the company raised £489 million in new equity to fund the expansion of superstores.

Sainsbury's downfall

The Sainsbury's supermarket building in Greenwich, which was nominated for the Stirling Prize in 2000.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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. Also in 1994 Sainsbury's lost the takeover battle for William Low (like Tesco, Sainsbury's had long been under-represented in Scotland). 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.

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.

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

In addition to Shaw's, Sainsbury's bought a minority stake in another supermarket group, Giant Food, based in Washington DC, 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 merging its business with Texas Homecare, which it acquired from Ladbroke for £290 million.

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 company's 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).

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

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

The brand re-launch

In June 1998 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 new general use lowercase font from the old all uppercase font, the new slogan "Making life taste better", which replaced their old slogan from the 1960s and new staff uniforms. The strapline was dropped in May 2005 and replaced in September of that year by "Try something new today." This new brand statement was created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. 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. 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 and described as a "fudge". On 14 January 2000 Sainsbury's reversed this decision by announcing the replacement of Adriano by Sir Peter Davis effective from March.

Business Transformation Programme

Between 2000–2004, Sir Peter Davis was chief executive of Sainsbury's. Davis' appointment was well received by investors and analysts. 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.

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. 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.

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.

'Making Sainsbury's Great Again'

J Sainsbury HQ in Holborn Circus

At the end of March 2004 Davis was promoted to chairman and was replaced as CEO by Justin King. King joined Sainsbury's in 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. 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. 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.

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'. 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.

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." 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. 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. In addition, it did a deal with IBM to upgrade its Electronic – Point of Sale systems as a result of increased sales.

Sainsbury's sold its American subsidiary, Shaw's, to Albertsons in 2004. 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. Jackson's Stores, a chain of 114 stores based in Yorkshire and the North Midlands, was purchased in August 2004. JB Beaumont, a chain of 6 stores in the East Midlands was acquired in November 2004. SL Shaw Ltd, which owned six stores was acquired on 28 April 2005 for £6 million.

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

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. 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.

On 4 April KKR left the consortium to focus on its bid for Alliance Boots. 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. 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%.

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. Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, with just under 3%, was more extreme than his cousin, and refused to sell at any price. He believed any offer at that stage of Sainsbury's recovery was likely to undervalue the business, 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. 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.

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."

In May 2007 Sainsbury's identified five areas of growth: Growth of non-food ranges; 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"; and "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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

In March 2009 Sainsbury's announced it was 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. 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. Since April 2012, the centre has began a gradual relocation to its new offices in the centre of Lincoln, along with a rebrand and partial relaunch as Sainsburys HR Services.

In May 2010 Justin King announced that Sainsbury's pledged to involve each of its 850 stores in the promotion of the Paralympics after the multimillion-pound deal with Locog to be the main sponsor of the London 2012 Paralympic games. The sum was not disclosed. Sainsbury’s will sell Paralympic merchandise and become involved in high-profile events such as the torch relay. It will be one of only two sponsors able to take advantage of the limited branding allowed within the Games. The promotional rights do not extend to the Olympics. After the Paralympic Games the company decided to sponsor the British Paralympic Association through to Rio 2016.

In September 2011 it was announced that the "Try Something New Today" slogan would be replaced with "Live Well For Less", this decision was made after a 18 month business review. The slogan will be phased in, and will be prominent on till receipts from 16 September.

On 30 November 2011 Sainsbury's reached the first milestone in its 2020 vision by opening its 1000th store in Irvine, Scotland. To celebrate this, Sainsbury's doubled its staff discount to 20% for the first 4 days of December.

Further re-organisation has seen Central Finance Operations move from the Holborn Head Office to Manchester and Property Division move to Ansty Park in Coventry. Most of the remaining Holborn operations are likely to move to Coventry in due course, as Sainsbury's looks to reduce costs by moving out of Central London.

Financial performance

   turnover in £10m per unit;
  pre-tax profit in £1m per unit;
  profit for year in £1m per unit;
   earnings per share in 0.1p per unit;
Sainsbury's Local in Winton, Bournemouth.

Between 1990 and 2010, Sainsbury's turnover increased from £6.9 billion to £21.4 billion, with a small dip in 2005, a year in which parts of the business were restructured. Profits before and after tax have been turbulent, with most years showing a pre-tax profit of £500–700 million and a profit for the year between £300–500 million, with 2005 and 2006 showing much reduced figures. 2005 saw exceptional costs of £100 million, and in 2006 Sainsbury's incurred "one-off operating costs" of £152 million, including £63 million to terminate the IT outsourcing contract with Accenture. Earnings per share in years other than 1994, 2005 and 2006 fell in the range 14p–33p. News reports on Wednesday 14 November 2012 reported that Sainsburys had performed well financially that year, reaching 6% profits at the start of the year 2012. Part of the success was due to the supermarket manufacturing its own-brand labels.

Current operations

Sainsbury's currently operates 1012 hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores. This is split down as 572 supermarkets and 440 convenience stores. It also operates Sainsbury's Bank, which sells financial services, and is a joint venture with Lloyds Banking Group; Sainsbury's Online internet shopping services; and has a property portfolio worth £8.6 billion (as of March 2007). Sainsbury's now has more than 1000 stores across the UK. It is the third 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 Kantar Worldpanel 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%.

The latest Kantar findings, published in September 2012, show changes in the supermarkets' respective market shares, with Tesco's market share now at 30.8%, Asda's 17.6%, Morrison's 11.5% and Sainbury's remaining at 16.4%.

Subsidiary businesses of Sainsbury's include the following:

  • Sainsbury's Local convenience store chain by Sainsbury's
  • Sainsbury's Central mini-supermarkets by Sainsbury's, due to be phased out and be re-branded under the core Sainsbury's 'Main Mission' format
  • Sainsbury's Online Online shopping service from Sainsbury's
  • Sainsbury's Active Kids loyalty voucher scheme by Sainsbury's
  • Sainsbury's Bank Financial services from Sainsbury's and Lloyds Banking Group, established in February 1997

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).

It is particularly strong in London and the South-East, where it is based.

Sainsbury's has powerful positions within many UK cities; for example in Southampton there are 5 Sainsbury's supermarkets and 2 Sainsbury's Local stores, one of the supermarkets in Southampton is also one of its Flagship stores.

Store formats

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 2011/12 financial year Sainsbury's store portfolio was as follows.

Format Number Total Space (sq ft)
Supermarkets 572 19,320,000
Convenience stores 440 1,027,000
Total 1012 20,347,000

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 aubergine-coloured staff uniforms have been introduced to all stores.

Old external signage bearing the 'J Sainsbury' name has still been found in use as recently as summer 2011 in Swindon, Ashbourne in Derbyshire and Blackheath, West Midlands

Supermarkets and hypermarkets

Interior of Sainsbury's Gloucester Quays store

The largest stores 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 SavaCentres 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 which Tesco used while it was building its 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) Extra store, currently the largest in the UK.

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 (Hertfordshire), Greenwich (London) and Hayes (Middlesex).

On 29 September 2010 Sainsbury's opened one of its largest UK stores, an extension of their existing store in Crayford, Kent, which now boasts over 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2) of retail space and is their largest supermarket to be built in the UK. Just recently Bybrook in Ashford Kent, which opened on 16 November 2011 now also boasts over 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2). In the same week they also opened their biggest store in Scotland at Darnley (90,000 sq ft (8,400 m2)) and their biggest in Wales at Newport (76,000 sq ft (7,100 m2)). The newly refurbished Lincoln, Lincolnshire store opened on 24 November 2010 making it the UK's second largest Sainsbury's supermarket after Crayford at 98,712 sq ft (9,170.6 m2).

The most northern Sainsbury's store is a 25,000 sq ft (2,300 m2) supermarket in Nairn, which opened in August 2011. Helston, which opened in 2010, is the company's most south-westerly store. Another one, in Heaton Park, opened in March 2012, marking the departure of the retail park that was sat there.

Convenience stores

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'.

Sainsbury's Central has now been phased out, to be replaced by the Sainsbury's 'Main Mission' format. This was announced in 2004, but several former Sainsbury's Central stores, including Croydon, Tottenham Court Road, Birmingham Martineau Place, 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.

The most northern Sainsbury's Local is the Rosemount Place store in Aberdeen, which opened on Friday, 17 December 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.

Jamie Oliver's deal is still going.

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 "Live Well For Less" slogan which was launched on 15 September 2011. 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."
  • "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 Tesco.
  • "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. Remained main slogan until 14 September 2011.
  • "Value where it matters" Used in advertising from late 2010, still in use as of May 2011.
  • "Clothes You Can't Wait To Wear" Used in all new advertising for TU Clothing as part of advertising campaign from May 2011.
  • "Live Well For Less". Introduced in September 2011. Replaced on till receipts from 16 September. TV Advertising campaign launched to help promote.
  • "Here's to Extraordinary". Used throughout 2012 to promote sponsorship of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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.

Sainsbury's is a sponsor of the Paralympic Summer Games in London 2012, and it is the largest sponsorship signed in the history of the Games.

Sainsbury's also started featuring 1960's songs as a common feature of the soundtrack of their advertisements from 2012 onwards. Examples include the original version of The Bare Necessities (for food), On the Road Again by Canned Heat (for car insurance) and Mr. Rabbit by Burl Ives (for an Easter promotion).

Product ranges

The own label Basics range is its low cost products

A large store typically stocks around 30,000 lines of which around 20% are "own-label" goods. These own-brand lines include:

  • Basics: an economy range of around 700 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. Sainsbury's Local stores sell none or very few of these lines. Equivalent to Tesco's Everyday Value, Asda's Smart Price and Morrisons M Savers.
  • by Sainsbury's: All own brand food products (over 6,500 different lines) will be re-branded under this new "by Sainsbury's" brand, first introduced on frozen foods in late 2010, re-branding will be complete by January 2013.
  • 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's Finest and Morrisons The Best. The TTD range was relaunched in September 2010. When the range was relaunched in 2010 it features 1141 lines, with at least 75% of them being "new or improved".
  • Different by Design (DBD): a smaller range of premium non-food lines, including flowers which were previously branded "Orlando Hamilton". Uses the same logo and typeface as Taste the Difference (Different by Design is the non-food equivalent of Taste the Difference).
  • 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. The BGTY range was relaunched in January 2010.
  • Freefrom: launched in 2002 but given a makeover in February 2010, it has over 75 product lines. These products are all grouped together in one aisle of the store (except fresh and frozen lines). These products are suitable for those allergic to dairy, wheat and gluten (although some are free from wheat/gluten but contain dairy).
  • Sainsbury's Organic (SO Organic): Around 500 lines of food and drink which are derived from sources free from fertiliser or pesticides.
  • Fair Trade: Over 100 fair trade products. – 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.
  • 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.


Online only recruitment

In November 2007, Sainsbury's became the first major British employer to introduce an "internet only" staff recruitment system. At the time, it was estimated that the move would save the company £4million a year in administration costs. This move came at a time when only approximately half of the British adult population was estimated to have access to the internet, though by 2010 it was estimated that more than 80% of the adult population had internet access. Several big retail names, including Marks & Spencer, adopted online recruitment at around the same time but have set aside a telephone recruitment system as an alternative for prospective employees who do not have internet access.

Treatment of overseas workers

In a 2006 report the British anti-poverty charity War on Want criticised the conditions faced by Kenyan workers supplying Sainsbury's with cut flowers.

Food safety prosecutions

Sainsbury's supermarkets have been prosecuted for selling food past its use by date on more than one occasion, evidence also showed that some staff did not have the correct training to carry out their duties involving food safety. In 2013 the Liberal Democrat 'No Mare Street Supermarket' campaign was able to make use of the horsemeat scandal, running a guerrilla poster offensive demanding "No Mare Supermarkets on Mare Street".

Sainsbury's Online

Sainsbury's operates an internet shopping service branded as "Sainsbury's Online". To use this service customers choose their grocery items online. Shoppers then collect the required items from the shop floor which are delivered to customers from a company selected store by van. This is available to about 75% of the UK population. The service is run from mid-size to larger stores which carry the full product range (or as close as possible) – over 200 stores operate an Online service.

The entertainment section is operated separately and entertainment lines (CDs, DVDs, BDs & books) are posted from Sainsbury's Guernsey partner MBL Ltd. The link to Sainsbury's Online's entertainment department forwards the user to the Sainsbury's Entertainment website which requires a separate account and log in.

It was previously called 'Sainsbury's to You' (and is still known as this in-house) and 'Sainsbury's entertain You', and prior to that it was called 'Sainsbury's Orderline'.

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.

As well as this, Sainsbury's Bank also offers a Travel Money service in stores, with 'Sainsbury's Travel Money' opening the 100th Travel Money bureau in its estate in May 2010 at the Hempstead Valley shopping centre store. These foreign exchange bureaus are operated in association with Travelex and offer a full bureau de change service instore.


Sainsbury's distribution centre in Waltham Point

Sainsbury's supply chain operates from 13 regional distribution centres (RDCs), with two national distribution centres for slower moving goods, and two frozen food facilities. In addition, the depot at Tamworth tranships general merchandise to the RDCs. Each depot is given a "Depot Code".

Bonded distribution centres

  • Allington, Maidstone, Kent

Regional distribution centres

  • Basingstoke, Hampshire
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Dartford, Kent
  • Emerald Park, Emerson's Green, Bristol
  • Greenford, Middlesex
  • Vauxhall,Nine Elms (London SW8)
  • Hams Hall, Coleshill, West Midlands
  • Haydock, St Helens, Merseyside
  • Langlands Park, East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire
  • Northampton, Northamptonshire
  • Sherburn, North Yorkshire
  • St Albans, Hertfordshire
  • Waltham Point, Essex
  • Exeter, Devon (Operational Q2 2013 – Delayed from Q4 2012)

Regional distribution centres – Slow Moving

  • Rye Park, Hertfordshire
  • Stoke, Staffordshire

Regional distribution centres – Frozen

  • Elstree, Hertfordshire
  • Stone, Staffordshire

National Distribution Centre – General Merchandise

  • Tamworth, Staffordshire
  • Shire Park, Worcestershire

National Distribution Centre – Clothing

  • Bedford, Bedfordshire

Sainsbury's also has a depot at Buntingford Hertfordshire. 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. Buntingford, on the A10 road, 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, NFT & Wincanton.


Sainsbury's archive of over 16,000 items relating to the business since its foundation is now kept at the Museum of London. The archive is particularly rich in the product packaging, advertising and retail stores areas.

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