We can all name the largest supermarkets in the UK without much problem, but how much do we know about their history?

A lot of the supermarkets started their lives as much smaller shops or stalls with little thought that they would grow to the huge sizes we see today.

Some supermarkets actually date back more than 100 years and have an extremely rich heritage where businesses were handed down to sons and daughters.

Here we look at the history of shops including Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and more.

News Shopper: The invention of the supermarket encouraged choice and lowered priceThe invention of the supermarket encouraged choice and lowered price


Tesco started life in 1919 when Jack Cohen started selling surplus groceries from a stall in the East End of London.

Mr Cohen made a profit of £1 from sales of £4 on his first day.

It was in 1924 the the name 'Tesco' was formed. 

News Shopper: A Tesco supermarket in the 80sA Tesco supermarket in the 80s

The name comes from the initials of TE Stockwell, who was a partner in the firm of tea suppliers, and CO from Jack's surname.

The first own-brand product sold, which Jack promised would bring unequalled value, was Tesco Tea - before the company was called Tesco.

The first store was opened in Edgware in 1929.


Founded in 1946, the name of the shop stands for ALbrecht-DIscount.

The German supermarket has stores in most EU countries, as well as Australia and the United States.

News Shopper: Aldi has been in the UK since 1990Aldi has been in the UK since 1990

Most German towns and villages have at least one Aldi shop.

There are about 4,100 stores in Germany, and 7,600 worldwide.

The group expanded to the UK in 1990, opening its first location in Birmingham. 


The company was founded by William Morrison in 1899, who started the business as an egg and butter merchant in Rawson Market, Bradford, operating under the name of Wm Morrison Limited.

News Shopper: A Morrisons store pictured in 1970A Morrisons store pictured in 1970

His son Ken Morrison took over the company in 1952, aged 21.

In 1958, Morrisons opened a small shop in the city centre.

News Shopper: A counter in the new Morrisons in Yeadon in 1970A counter in the new Morrisons in Yeadon in 1970


Asda stands for Associated Dairies.

The company was founded in 1949 when the supermarket-owning Asquith family merged with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire.

News Shopper: Opening of Asda in Totton 1983Opening of Asda in Totton 1983

It expanded into the south of England during the 1970s and 1980s.


In 1932, Josef Schwarz became a partner in Südfrüchte Großhandlung Lidl & Co., a fruit wholesaler, and he developed the company into a general food wholesaler.

In 1977, under his son Dieter Schwarz, the Schwarz-Gruppe began to focus on discount markets, larger supermarkets, and cash and carry wholesale markets.

He did not want to use the name Schwarz-Markt (Schwarzmarkt means "black market") and rather use the name of Josef Schwarz's former business partner, A. Lidl, but legal reasons prevented him from taking over the name for his discount stores.

News Shopper: The first Lidl GB store opened its doors in 1994The first Lidl GB store opened its doors in 1994

When he discovered a newspaper article about the painter and retired schoolteacher Ludwig Lidl, he bought the rights to the name from him for 1,000 German marks.

In 1973, the first modern Lidl store opened in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

The first Lidl GB store opened its doors in 1994 and they now have more than 800 stores and 13 regional distribution centres across Britain, employing over 23,000 people.


It was 1869 when John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann opened the first Sainsbury's store on London's Drury Lane.

The business didn't take long to flourish, proving popular with locals due to the high quality yet affordable goods on offer.

Sainsbury started as a retailer of fresh foods and later expanded into packaged groceries such as tea and sugar.

News Shopper: Wholesome pictures from Sainsbury's in the 1980sWholesome pictures from Sainsbury's in the 1980s

By 1881, three more stores were opened to help cater for the growing demand.

In 1882, they opened their first shop outside of London, in Croydon and it quickly became Sainsbury's flagship store.

By 1903, the chain opened the 100th branch in London and the southeast.


Waitrose & Partners first appeared on the high street in 1904 when Wallace Wyndham Waite, Arthur Rose and David Taylor opened their shop in Acton.

After two years, Taylor left the business leaving Waite and Rose who formed Waitrose Ltd in 1908.

The business continued to develop after Rose left in 1924 and the chain grew to include branches from Windsor to Gerrards Cross. 

The next major change in the fortunes of Waitrose & Partners was the result of the move to self service shopping in the early 1950s. 

News Shopper: Waitrose Supermarket before it became Cotgrove's Restaurant in Southend High StreetWaitrose Supermarket before it became Cotgrove's Restaurant in Southend High Street

The first shops to become self service were Schofield & Martin, a small chain of grocery shops based around Southend. 

By 1955 Waitrose & Partners opened its first supermarket in Streatham with 2,500 square feet of selling space. 

By the early 1970s there were 50 branches, some still small self service shops but more and more larger supermarkets. 

This led to the construction of a new distribution centre at Bracknell enabling the business to grow at a much faster rate. 

By 2004 the division had expanded to more than 200 shops including the acquisition of branches from other chains such as Morrisons and Somerfield.