UK shop timelines, numbers of stores � For Tesco only

Page last modified 31/1/2022


For other stores, see Supermarket timelines � non-Tesco


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Tesco general chronology

The start of Tesco, 1920s, 30s

The move to self-service, 1946-50

The move to supermarkets, 1956-68

The abolition of RPM (Tescopolitics), 1960s, 70s

The Age of Tescopoly, 1973 - 2010

The Empire Stumbles, 2010 � 2016

Small is beautiful (for Tesco) 2017 - now


(see below for Tesco international expansion/contraction)

(see below for product diversification)

(see below for Tesco store numbers)


The start of Tesco

Tesco was founded by Jack Cohen; born 1898, he was the son of East European Jewish migrants, and learnt the hard end of the grocery trade from the street market stalls of east London.In 1919 Mr Cohen began selling NAAFI surplus vegetables from a stall in East London, financing this by investing his �30 serviceman�s gratuity after serving in the Flying Corps. On the first day he made �1 profit.Mr Cohen soon acquired the nickname �Slasher Jack� from the way he ruthlessly cut grocery prices (see �Piggly Wiggly�stores).In 1929 Mr Cohen began selling his groceries from fixed shops.The name Tesco first appeared on a lock-up store in Burnt Oak, near Edgware, north London; the company �Tesco� was founded in 1932.The name �Tesco�, derived from T E Stockwell (Jack Cohen�s tea supplier) and Jack Cohen, was first used on tea, in 1924.


In the 1930s, Tesco moved into fixed shop premises in the new London suburbs, at cheap rents.Mr Cohen opened a second market stall in Tooting, south London, in 1930, and Tesco stores opened in Becontree (east London) and Edmonton (north London) in 1931[1].Note that whilst today these are lower-class suburbs, in the 1930s they were middle class districts.Mr Cohen�s ambition was to bring cheap groceries to the moderately affluent, and they loved it.

The move to self-service

1946, Jack Cohen visited the USA and was impressed by the self-service system at their supermarkets. This enabled more people to be served faster, with lower labour costs.In 1950, The Tesco branch in St Albans, small by 21st century standards (200 square metres) was the first Tesco to be converted to self service. This, or the Sainsbury Croydon branch, also converted to self service in 1950, was the UK�s first self-service supermarket.

The move to supermarkets

1956, Tesco opened its first supermarket, in a former cinema at Maldon, Essex.

1961 Tesco opened a 1,600 square metre (sales area) supermarket in Leicester, which was in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest store in Europe

1967, Tesco opened a 9,600 square metre store at Westbury, Wiltshire; this was exceptionally large for its time.

1968 The term �superstore� was first applied to a Tesco store; to its branch at Crawley, West Sussex.

The abolition of RPM (Tescopolitics)

1960s, Tesco lobbied Parliament to have RPM (Resale Price Maintenance) abolished, its efforts supported by Edward Heath. RPM had forbidden retailers, who could buy in bulk, from undercutting the prices of smaller shops, so protecting smaller retailers. Large retailers such as Tesco got around this by issuing stamps with purchases, and these stamps could be redeemed for catalogue goods, an effective discount.

1964, Parliament in the UK passed the Resale Prices Act, abolishing RPM. By 1979, RPM only remained on books and pharmaceutical goods.

The Age of Tescopoly

1973. The oil price shock led to a three-day week in the UK, and a recession. Tesco responded by ditching Green Shield Stamps and replacing them with lower prices. Green Shield Stamps finally disappeared in 1979.

1979, Terry Leahy joined Tesco, as a marketing executive.

1982, Tesco first used computerised checkouts. Tesco had 70 �superstores�.

1985, Tesco opened its 100th superstore (in Brent Park, Neasden, London)

1991 Tesco became Britain�s biggest independent petrol retailer. Offering cheap petrol was one way the supermarkets could persuade more customers with cars to come and shop there.

1992, Tesco began opening small format �Metro� stores, the first was at Covent Garden, central London. This was to catch the office worker and tourist trade, people who might not have the time to shop at a larger supermarket.

1994 Tesco began opening �Express� stores. The first was on a garage forecourt in Barnes, south-west London.

1994 Tesco launched its Clubcard, a loyalty card giving shoppers effectively 1% off their shopping bill, or more if there were special bonus points awarded. These loyalty cards were once seem by the supermarkets as a way of persuading shoppers to stick with one store, hence the name, but shoppers simply obtained all the �loyalty cards� going and continued to use different stores. However the main value of the card to the shop was that, linked to other electronic data such as credit card addresses, it gave a detailed profile of shopper habits and preferences, even the times they shopped. This could be used to target the supermarket�s own direct mailing, or the information could be sold as a valuable commodity to other marketers. Also, the cards initially produced more information than the supermarkets could possibly handle, although rapid advances in computer processing power are ameliorating that problem. Nevertheless, some stores have dropped their loyalty cards in favour of the competitive edge of lower prices.

1996, Tesco overtook Sainsbury in market share to become the UK�s biggest supermarket.

1997, Tesco opened the first of its �Extra� format large stores at Pitsea, Essex. This store had around 10,000 square metres sales area.

1998, Following a deregulation of UK shop opening hours in 1987, Tesco now had 28 stores opening 24 hours a day except Sundays, when a maximum of six hours opening were now allowed.

March 1999, Tesco now had 83 stores on 24-hour opening.

2000, Tesco launched

8/2000 Tesco now had 230 stores open �24 hours�. The 1950 Shops Act had prohibited Sunday opening or shops open after 8pm on weekdays. Only �perishable items� could be sold on a Sunday. In practice, small �corner� shops widely flouted this restriction, and local councils turned a blind eye, but the Act was enforced for larger shops. In any case, what was �perishable� was highly complex to define, and led to anomalies such as it being legal to sell periodicals, such as pornographic magazines, on a Sunday, but not books, for example Bibles. The 1950 Shops Act was repealed in 1994, and Sunday opening allowed for up to 6 hours. Thereafter, many large supermarkets were open from Monday morning to Saturday evening, and from 10-4, or less often 11-5, on Sundays.

5/2003, TESCO ENTERED THE TOP TEN OF WORLD RETAILERS.It leapt from no.11 in 2002 to 8th in 2003, due to a series of acquisitions and worldwide expansion as well as organic growth.Non-UK trade now accounted for 18% of Tesco�s total sales.

8/2004. Tesco now sold 840 million litres of milk a year, 12% of all milk sold in the UK.

2/2005, Verdict reported that Tesco had, by end-2004, a 5% share of local convenience-store food retailing, up 1% in a year; in 1999 Tesco had just 0.9% of neighbourhood food retailing. This put Tesco just behind the shares of the Co-op (5.5%), Spar (5.4%), and Musgrave (5.3%) (Musgrave has gained market share by its takeover of Londis). Somerfield had a 3.1% share of local food retailing.

2/2006 Tesco announced plans to open �hundreds� of convenience stores, similar to its successful �Express� format in the UK, on the west coast of the USA. UK retailers have frequently faced difficulties on attempting an entry into the US market, but anti-monopoly policies in Europe have restricted Tesco�s available avenues for expansion.The first Tesco US stores are to open in late 2007 in southern California, Arizona, and Nevada (Financial Times, 28 June 2007, p.9).Most of the new stores will be in the prosperous suburbs of cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.However some Tesco stores will be in deprived, mainly Hispanic-populated, inner suburbs, far from existing major supermarkets, where there are only small independent stores with high food prices.Many of these independent stores will likely be forced to close, even as the more efficient ones reduce prices and improve their offering to try and match Tesco.On average, local grocery prices in these deprived neighbourhoods will fall, but some people may have a longer journey to get their daily foodstuffs. Tesco has acquired many former pubs, which have been closing at a rapid rate in the UK due to alcohol duties, drink-driving enforcement, energy costs, and cash-strapped customers, and turning these into �Express� stores.

12/2009, Tesco began re-fascia-ing some of its garage forecourt stores to the One-Stop format.Tesco acquired the One Stop fascia in 10/2002 when it bought the T & S chain; as detailed below (see Tesco corporate takeovers and sales), some One Stop fascias were retained, although under Tesco ownership.There were suspicions that this would facilitate Tesco charging higher prices at these smaller stores than if they were fascia-ed as Tesco, since many shoppers are unaware that Tesco in fact owns One Stop (The Grocer, 19/12/2009, p.10).

The Empire Stumbles

1/2015, In 2014 Tesco was shaken by revelations that it had �overstated� its profits, which had already slipped from a peak of �4 billion year ending February 2012 to �3,3 billion year ending February 2014 (See Supermarket sales and profits). The issue was to do with enforced discounts, invoice delays and paybacks foisted on suppliers in return for prime shelf space and other �favours� within Tesco stores. The extra money Tesco made from these measures was a future stream, on year�s trading to come, but Tesco had included this money as already-gained profit. This matter was, in 2014, under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

Tesco announced, in December 2014, that its profit for year ending February 2015 would not even attain the �1.9 billion expected in Summer 2014, as Tesco lost share to the discounters Aldi and Lidl. Instead, a figure of �1.4 billion was now expected.

Tesco�s shares price, which had already slipped from a peak of 495p in late 2007 to around 370p in summer 2013 (as the Credit Crunch persuaded shoppers to migrate to Aldi and Lidl), then fell to a low of 162.5p in 2014.

In January 2015 Tesco�s new CEO, Dave Lewis, (Sir Terry Leahy stood down in 2011) announced a reduction in product range of 30% from the 90,000 lines then offered by a typical Tesco Extra store. Shoppers, he said, were baffled by 228 choices of air fresheners or 28 options of tomato sauce, whilst Aldi offered just one type of tomato sauce, in one size; Aldi sold just 12 types of air freshener. Tesco sold 98 types of rice (Aldi, 6 options), and 283 kinds of coffee (Aldi, 20). The retail analyst Kantar estimated the average shopper only ever bought 441 different product lines over a year, with 41 separate items in their average weekly shop. Mr Lewis hired management consultants Boston Consulting to prune that 90,000 choice down to between 65,000 and 70,000 (a typical Aldi offers just 2,000 product lines). Tesco had expanded its product range by a third since 2013; by contrast its main competitors, Asda, Morrison and Sainsbury had kept their ranges at between 20,000 and 30,000 lines.

Tesco also announced plans to close 43 loss making stores (18 Express stores, 12 Metro stores, 7 superstores, and 6 non-food Homeplus stores), putting 2,000 jobs at risk.A further 49 Tesco stores planned to open, including some under construction, would now not go ahead; the loss to the community was not just a supermarket but the jobs, and associated development of housing units, that was to go with them. Some of these abandoned store projects involved the restoration of historic buildings, such as a Victorian hospital in Wolverhampton. It was also to close its corporate headquarters at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in 2016, and move to smaller premises at Welwyn Garden City nearby. These measures would save �250 million a year.

Tesco was facing the problem that shoppers were moving more towards convenience last-minute small shopping trips from local stores such as Tesco Express. However Tesco will then face the issue of too much shelf space in its larger stores; yards of empty shelves do not look good in a supermarket.

In 2015 Tesco began cutting back on the number of its large stores offering 24-hour opening (ca. 400 in early 2015).These stores catered for shift workers but online shopping and garage convenience stores also took this trade.

2016, Tesco ceased 24-hour opening at many of its stores. By June 2016 almost 100 Tesco stores that once had 24-hour opening had ceased to operate these hours. The riseof the Internet since 1998, when Tesco began 24-hour opening, was to blame; insomniacs could just as easily shop at home on their computer now. However in June 2016 some 300 Tesco stores, plus 230 Asda stores*, still ran 24 hours a day, except Sunday of course. Sainsbury now ran just 4 24-hour stores, and Morrison�s never ran any 24-hour stores.

*Asda ceased 24-hour opening at 20 stores in 2014.

Tesco�s share price had fallen from a peak of around 380p in 2013 to a low of 140p in early 2016; they have since recovered somewhat to around 175p by end-2017.

Small is beautiful (for Tesco)

2017, Tesco bought Bookers, a large grocery wholesaler. The Competition Regulator approved the deal in November 2017. It decided that Tesco did not compete in the catering sector, where 30% of Bookers� 2017 sales were. However other buying groups including Spar and Bestway were concerned. At the same time the Co-op�s takeover of Nisa was approved by Nisa shareholders.

At end-2016, Bookers supplied 125,000 independent convenience stores and garage forecourt stores as well as 468,000 restaurants (including Byron and Wagamamas) , pubs, cinemas and other leisure venues. In the UK, it supplies the Premier (3,358 shops), Londis (1,903 shops), Family Shopper (52 shops) and Budgens (150 stores) buying groups/ Bookers also supply grocers in India.

Reasons for Tesco buying Bookers include,

1) UK shoppers are moving away from the once-a-week big supermarket shopping model and buying more immediate food at smaller outlets where they can pop in for unplanned meals to be eaten the same day. This is partly due to people livingin small accommodation where they don�t have room for a big fridge-freezer.

2) Catering is a fast-growing UK market, as consumers increasingly opt for food prepared by someone else, ready to eat at home or to be consumed in a restaurant.

3) Tesco will now be able to deliver online orders to over 5,000 UK corner shops; online shopping is a fast-growing market in the UK. Tesco can also market its banking and phone services in these shops.

4) Tesco will add between �2 and �3 billion to its current �45 billion UK grocery sales, increasing its buying power in the marked and gaining further economies of scale.

20/9/2018, Tesco opened the first of a new discount chain of stores, called Jacks, after Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco. The store was located in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, close to an Aldi. This was in competition with the discount chains Aldi and Lidl.

1/2019, Tesco announced plans to cut back on fresh cheese, eat and fish counters in its stores. Potentially, 15,000 jobs were at risk, from the 324,000 then employed by Tesco (itself a 10,000 reduction on 2014).

1/2022, Tesco announced it would ditch the Jacks fascia. Seven of its 13 Jacks stores were to close and the remaining 6 to be refasciaed as Tesco.


Tesco international expansion/contraction


1994 Tesco entered Hungary, purchasing the Globus chain.Tesco�s first entry to Eastern Europe.

1995 Tesco entered Poland, purchasing the Savia chain.By 2009 Tesco had 301 stores, with 24,780 staff, in Poland.

1996 Tesco entered the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

1997 Tesco entered Ireland.

1997 Tesco entered Thailand.

1999 Tesco entered South Korea.

2000 Tesco entered Taiwan.

2001 Tesco entered Malaysia

2003 Tesco entered Turkey and Japan. In Turkey it purchased the Kipa chain, 191 stores in 20 cities, for UK� 75 million. In 2014 Tesco deferred plans to sell the Kipa chain due to lack of purchase interest; Kipa stores in eastern Turkey were underperforming.

2004 Tesco entered China.

2005, Tesco exited Taiwan; its stores were handed to Carrefour in exchange for Carrefour�s stores in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, reinforcing Tesco�s already-successful presence in those countries

2007, Tesco entered the USA.It opened Fresh and Easy stores, the first was in California.However by early 2009 there were signs that the Fresh and easy format was not doing as well as Tesco first hoped.The Credit Crunch, which began in the US as households there began to default on over-extended mortgages, did not help; it was also possible that Tesco researchers had overestimated the balance of fresh food as against frozen ready meals consumed by US households (see �Marketing�, 4/3/2009, p.20).See Grocery Retailing in the USA for further details.

In 2013 Tesco decided a loss of �1.2 billion on Fresh and Easy was enough and pulled out.

2008, Tesco began operating its smaller Express format in China; the first such store was in Shanghai.

2011 Tesco exited from Japan.Problems included the Japanese consumer preference for small purchases from local shops, and for using vending machines.

2013 Tesco exited from the USA, see 2007 Fresh and Easy above.

2013, Tesco exited from China.

2015 Tesco exited from South Korea.

2016 Tesco exited from Turkey

3/2020 Tesco exited from Malaysia and Thailand. Its 2,000 shops, with 60,000 employees, were sold to Charoen Pokphand Group for �8.2 billion. Tesco was now concentrating in its home ground, the UK and Ireland, where it had 3,800 shops, also central Europe where Tesco had 895 shops. However it was restructuring in Poland, where customers were switching from hypermarkets to smaller shops, and a future exit from Poland was also thought possible at this time.

6/2020, Tesco exited Poland. It sold off all its 301 Tesco Polska outlets there to Denmark�s largest retailer, Salling Group (formerly Dansk.before purchase by Salling Funds, a name that commemorates the group�s founder, Ferdinand Salling), for �181 million.

In 2019 Tesco made sales of �1.37 billion, but losses of �24 million. Salling already operated the Netto chain in Poland, along with the Fotex supermarket chain, the Bilka hypermarket chain, and the Salling department stores. Tesco now aimed to concentrate on sales in the eastern European countries of Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia; Tesco has been streamlining its assets and cutting its debts.


Tesco product diversification



Non-food products




Wild venison, from Scotland


Internet shopping


Tesco Personal Finance


Tesco credit card


Mobile phones


Life insurance (Norwich Union)




Property conveyancing service


Tesco began building flats/houses


2011, Tesco now sell, amongst other things � beauty services, hairdressing, pawnbroking, engagement rings, estate agency services, houses, divorce services, and wetsuits.Online, there is now, selling second hand cars.

2011, Tesco announced plans to enter the �beauty� market.Treatments such as leg waxing, make-up advice, tanning, and hairdressing are to be offered in a move which wpould challenge both Boots and many independent beauty, hairdressing, salons.Botox and brush-up with your baked beans, anyone?


Tesco store numbers



Store numbers (UK)

Sales area (UK) square metres

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Store numbers (UK)

Sales area (UK) square metres

Store numbers (non-UK)

Total store numbers


1956, Tesco opened its first supermarket in a former cinema in Maldon, Essex.

1968 Tesco opened its first superstore, at Crawley, Sussex.

During the 1970s many small inner city stores were closed. They were too small to have adequate economies of scale and were in areas of low spending power.Of the 518 Tesco stores of under 500 square metres sales area in 1972, just 190 remained by 1980. However improved computer and distribution technology means the smaller stores now operated by the main supermarket chains in the 21st century now can enjoy economies of scale similar to the larger superstores.

(A West, �Handbook of Retailing�, 1988, pp.39-40), (The Times, 10/2/2006, p.48)

* 2005, Tesco now had 100 Extra hypermarkets, 446 superstores, 160 Metro stores, 546 Express neighbourhood stores, and 527 T & S stores not bearing the Tesco fascia

Tesco Ireland was now the largest food retailer in Ireland, with 79 stores and employing 10,200 people.



[1] A Seth et al, ,The Grocers,, Kogan Page, London, 1999, p.24