Tesco was founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen from a market stall in London's East End. He had left the Royal Flying Corp at the end of WW1, and using his demob money to buy the first day's stock, made a profit of £1 on sales of £4 on the day's trading.
The first Tesco store opened in Burnt Oak, Edgware, North London in 1929, selling dry goods. It's first own-brand product was Tesco Tea, the name ‘Tesco' coming from the initials of TE Stockwell, who was a partner in the firm of tea suppliers, and the CO from Jack's surname.
In 1934 Jack Cohen bought a plot of land at Angel Road, Edmonton, and built a new headquarters and warehouse. This was the first modern food warehouse in the country, and new ideas for stock control were introduced. Coincidentally three years later Herbert & Sons Ltd also purchased land at Angel Road and built a new factory there.
Following a research visit to North America, Jack Cohen decided to venture into self-service, opening the first of these new stores in St Albans, Hertfordshire in 1948, to a mixed reaction from customers. The picture shows Tesco staff delivering goods to the store.
The first Tesco supermarket was opened in Maldon, Essex in 1958, and included a counter service selling cheese, butter and meats weighed by sales assistants.
In 1960, Herbert & Sons bought the Swift Scale Company, who were already supplying meat mincers to Tesco, and in January 1962 the Lion News reported that Tesco had opened ‘the most modern Supermarket in the country, complete with its own multi-storey car park' using ‘Lion weighing machines' and ‘all the equipment and sundries for the butchery section'.
Tesco was expanding fast, and Jim Herbert worked with both Daisy Hyams and Jack Cohen during the early years of the Company's relationship with them, and soon we were supplying all their weighing and mincer requirements. In 1968 the term 'superstore' was first used when the store in Crawley, West Sussex opened, which was 40,000 sq. ft. in size and sold food and non-food goods. Also in that year Tesco bought the Victor Value chain, who were existing Herbert customers.
It was clear by then that electronic scales were the product that customers would need. A specification dated February 1968 was discussed with Tesco on 14th February and notes of the meeting say that Tesco 'were favourably impressed' and 'wanted Tesco's to have the first units'. This resulted in our development of the UK's first trade approved Retail Digital Scale, passed by the Board of Trade on 10th July 1968.
1971 saw a huge operation for the Company in the conversion of several thousand Tesco weighing machines from £ s d to £ p. for Decimalisation ‘D Day' on 15th February. After this massive operation was successfully completed in October, the Planning Director of Tesco wrote a letter of congratulations and thanks to the Company for the "careful planning and unstinted efforts put in”.
Tesco introduced computerised checkouts for the first time in 1982, and we began to supply checkout scales for these. In 1987 C Plus started, the implementation of bar code scanning throughout Tesco UK.
Tesco's published their company history, ‘Counter Revolution: The Tesco Story' in 1991, and celebrated their 75th anniversary in 1994.
Lord MacLaurin, former Chairman of Tesco is pictured right at the opening of Smithfield House on February 11th 1998, unveiling a slate plaque for the Company.
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