In 1961 Tesco Leicester entered the Guiness Book of Records as the largest store in Europe and in 1968 Tesco opened its first ‘superstore’ in Crawley, West Sussex. Supermarkets revolutionised the way people shopped and by the 1970s Tesco was building a national store network to cover the whole of the UK, which it continues to expand to this day, while also diversifying into other products. In 1974 Tesco opened its first petrol stations, and would become the UK’s largest independent petrol retailer. By 1979 total sales topped £1bn, and by 1982 sales had doubled to more than £2bn. In 1987 Tesco successfully completed a hostile takeover of supermarket rival Hillards for £220m. The battle for top spot
In the 1990s Tesco continued to tighten its grip on the UK with more store openings and an agressive marketing campaign in an attempt to overtake Sainsbury’s as the UK’s leading grocer. In 1992, the company launched is slogan ‘every little helps’, followed by the Tesco Value range in 1993. This was followed by the launch of the Tesco Clubcard scheme in 1995, helping Tesco to overtake rival Sainsbury’s as the UK’s largest food retailer. 1996 saw the retailer introduce its first 24-hour store while it also expanded overseas opening shops in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. In 1997 Tesco appointed Sir Terry Leahy as chief executive. Tesco.com was launched in 2000 and the supermarket continued to expand its range of products, which now includes clothes, electricals and personal finance products. In 2004 Tesco entered the broadband market.
Two years ago, in 2006, the retailer announced ambitious plans to open stores in the US under the name ‘Fresh and Easy’ and funded by existing resources. Tesco now operates in 13 countries. Today it reported that group sales were £51.8bn in the year to February 23 2008. Pre-tax profit rose to £2.8bn. In 2008 the retail giant took its conquest of the UK one step further by buying up some rival Somerfield stores on remote islands in Scotland, giving Tesco a presence in every single postcode area in the country. As it stands there is only one postcode in the UK – in Harrogate in North Yorkshire – which does not have a Tesco. Every little hurts…
As the supermarket giant has grown, so too has the number of places in the UK dubbed ‘Tesco town’. In Inverness more than 50p in every pound spent on food by the city’s 66,000 residents is done so at a Tesco checkout and similar dominance in other towns has sparked controversy. Because of their size, supermarkets have been accused by some of abusing their position by forcing smaller local shops out of business. According to non-profit organisation Ethical Network, local communities could be losing inward investment of up to £100bn every year because of supermarket centralisation. In 2001 a blackmailer failed in an attempt to extort £5m from Tesco through a parcel bomb campaign and was jailed for 16 years. In 2008 Phillip McHugh, a former tax inspector, was jailed after threatening to bomb Tesco stores unless they gave him £1m. Mr McHugh sent 76 letters to the company threatening to blow up shops and poison customers by contaminating food, promising that “blood will flow” unless they gave into his demands.