Shopping in the UK – Supermarkets

Posted on March 15, 2017

Supermarkets are big in the UK – both in terms of size and importance.  There are supermarkets on most high streets, but it is the edge of town stores that are most popular and contain the massive range of products we love.  We tend to either drive to the bigger stores, or order online and get our groceries delivered – the delivery option is becoming more and more popular, especially for flat dwellers with a few flights of stairs to climb and parking issues!

There are a few companies from which to choose – all have a slightly different brand image and price band.  If you want to know where to head to do your shopping, the following information might help you decide which of the major chains will suit you best:

By far the biggest of them all. The company was one of the first major food retailers to introduce online shopping.  You can choose your groceries from the online virtual store and arrange next day delivery for £5.  Their website offers many other services too – from Tesco Direct which is their non food arm, covering everything from electricals to DIY, through to Tesco Bank which includes savings accounts and travel insurance, amongst many other things.
There are a few different formats of stores: Tesco Express which are small, urban outlets often connected to a petrol filling station or in a high street.  These stores offer a wide range of products but specialise in convenience foods and is the ideal place to fetch that midweek pint of milk when you run out.  The Metro is the next size up and the ranges are a little bigger, these are found in high streets across the country.  The superstores are bigger still, these are usually placed in out of town locations and the Extra stores are the biggest of them all.  Again, in out of town locations where there is enough land to build them, these gigantic warehouse type structures contain everything you might need.

Tesco has a loyalty card – Tesco Clubcard – where you can earn points on every pound you spend.  These points can be redeemed on further purchases at both Tesco and their affiliate companies:

Sainsbury‘s has held a reputation for being a middle class supermarket and until recently has been favoured for the quality of its products rather than the value of them, although this has changed over the past few years and they have become more competitive on price.  This is probably because the group has lost significant market share over the past couple of decades mainly to its closest rival, Tesco.  Sainsbury’s have been opening smaller stores on the high street over the last ten years and has convenience stores in many towns as well as large out of town superstores.  Their online shopping attempts to rival that of Tesco and has a similar array of products.

Sainsbury’s also has a loyalty card – Nectar card – where you can earn points on everything you spend – these points can be redeemed on all manner of products and services, a bit like the Tesco Clubcard.

Founded in 1965, it is one of the new kids on the block compared to the other supermarket chains in the UK.  It was taken over by Walmart in 1999 and is now the second largest supermarket chain in the country, after Tesco.
It tries to compete in terms of range and services as the others, but Asda has built a reputation for “piling them high and selling them cheap” and are often perceived as a value end retailer – not necessarily focusing on a quality product, rather low prices and high volume.  Like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, they will deliver groceries to your door.

This traditionally based supermarket chain has expanded massively in the past decade, mostly due to its takeover of the UK arm of another chain – Safeway.  It is still the smallest of the big four supermarkets but it has the fastest growth of its rivals.  Its traditional reputation as a volume retailer built on value for money is now being replaced in its marketing by its reputation for selling fresh foods made onsite.

Undeniably middle class, Waitrose prides itself on very high quality, their tagline being “Quality Food Honestly Priced”.  Britain is an increasing nation of foodies and Waitrose is favoured because of it’s wide range of unusual and high end lines.  This is not a PLC, it is a company owned by the staff who call themselves “partners”.  It’s part of the John Lewis pertnership and has a reputation for looking after its staff and it’s enviable ethical record.

Marks and Spencer
A British institution as far as shops are concerned.  Famous worldwide for it’s knickers and socks, M&S as we call it holds a very special place in the hearts of us Brits,  The first retailer to introduce quality ready meals into its stores, and famed for its sandwiches, it has a reputation for selling high quality food.  They used to sell only their own branded products, but have recently been introducing some key branded products too.
M&S now have a growing chain of food only stores called “Simply Food” which are dotted about the place on high streets, in motorway service stations, hospitals and train stations.  They don’t provide the same online grocery shopping/delivery service as the others, although you can order a limited amount of other products online:

This was the very first retail company in Britain.  The Co-op is a group of retail societies run for the benefit of its members.  It has a reputation as an ethical company and has Fair Trade guarantees with its suppliers.  Not as widespread as the others, and seem to have been suffering over the past decade as the other chains have grown:

Aldi and Lidl

These are a couple of new kids on the block. They came to the UK from Germany in the nineties and have become very popular over recent years with their focus on the no frills, value end of the market. Specialising in staple items, such as food, beverages, toilet paper, and other inexpensive household products, many of its range are own label, with the number of other brands usually limited to a maximum of two for a given item.

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