1970… Mum’s gone to Iceland… As domestic freezers start to flood in, Woolworths employees Malcolm Walker and Peter Hinchcliffe open the first Iceland store in Oswestry, selling loose frozen food. When Woolies management find out about the duo’s enterprising sideline, their employment is terminated and the frozen food chain’s meteoric rise starts in earnest. The company goes truly national after acquiring competitor Bejam in 1989. Today it’s the subject of a hot bidding war with Walker and a raft of other suitors lining up to buy the chain.
1973… RFID tagging launches… Radio Frequency Identification Devices are patented for the first time. Cheap and reliable, they have a multitude of uses, not least in helping ensure the provenance of farm animals, revolutionising logistics and minimising shrinkage.
1973… POS goes EPOS… IBM creates the first dedicated electronic point-of-sale products in 1973 when it unveils the 3650/3660 Store Systems. Sainsbury’s is again a pioneer in its early use in the UK as it invests heavily in scanning equipment.
1974… Bargain hunt… Multi-price retailer Bargain Centre opens offering a ‘clinical’ high street version of a marketplace. The UK’s first single-price store, Everything’s £1, follows in 1997 and in 2004 the business becomes Poundworld. Copycat pound chains follow in its wake.
1974… Petrol at Tesco... Tesco ties up a deal with Esso to start supplying petrol via forecourts. High-volume sales coupled with the fact the store doesn’t always pass on oil price increases, secures the mult’s place as the UK’s largest independent petrol retailer by 1991.
1974… Big Mac hits… UK high streets It seems incredible there was once a time when the Golden Arches didn’t light up UK high streets. One can only imagine the shock of residents of Woolwich, South East London, when Ronald McDonald and the Big Mac rocked up. A legend was born.
1974… Barcode cracked… Imagine a supermarket without the ‘beeps’. Well that’s the norm until Wrigley becomes the first food and drink supplier to adopt newfangled barcodes (starting with a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum). The innovation sticks as stores that adopt barcode scanners start to enjoy much faster throughput of customers and much deeper insight into shopping habits, leading to a significant surge in sales. By 1980, 8,000 stores a year are converting to the now-ubiquitous technology.
1975… Challenging marketing… The simple-but-effective Pepsi Challenge asks Americans to blind taste test colas and pick their favourite. Most plump for Pepsi over rival Coke. The campaign later hits these shores and ‘I Took The Pepsi Challenge’ T-Shirtsbecome common place
1976… Cod war ends… The longstanding dispute between British and Icelandic fishermen over fishing grounds ends when Iceland threatens to close a NATO base in retaliation for Britain’s deployment of warships within the disputed zone. Britain backs down
1977… Nisa-Today’s is born… Following a boozy session at the Crown Hotel near Doncaster, Dudley Ramsden and Peter Garvin create the Northern Independent supermarkets Association, a buying group with a collective turnover of £20m. Today turnover stands at £1.5bn.
1977… ‘No to Nestlé’… The Infant Formula Action Coalition launches a boycott against Nestle products in protest at the promotion of baby milk in developing countries
The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1860s
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The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1970's