The rise of the discounters is often referred to as a recent phenomenon, but in reality it’s been going since 1964 when the government passed the Resale Price Act, which abolished manufacturers and retailers agreeing a fixed rsp for goods.
Overnight, retailers were able to offer cut-price deals. And in his new book One Stop One Life (£12.99, Icon Books, out now) former chairman and founder of T&S Stores Kevin Threlfall recalls how he cashed in by selling cut-price groceries on a market stall in Cannock. Then, in 1971, decimalisation kicks in “and inflation really starts to take off.” Threlfall watches Kwik Save ape the basic-but-brilliant Aldi model and realises it’s “the way forward.”
He becomes “obsessed” with opening his own discounter, and Lo-Cost Discount stores is born, the first of many successful ventures over the next 30 years, including Supercigs, Dillons and One Stop, and culminating in Threlfall selling T&S to Tesco for a cool £530m in 2002.
Featuring cameos from Sir Terry Leahy and Jim McCarthy, it’s a fascinating insight into how discount, and convenience, grocery retailing has evolved over the past 50 years. However, it also shows some things never change: like when Threlfall learns that Tesco is preparing a price offensive to take on the threat of the discounters. In 1977.
As for Threlfall, despite his passion for retail, he’s “truly glad to be out of a battlefield that’s going to see a lot of bloodshed over the coming years.” It’s a stark warning. Especially from someone who evidently knows his onions.