This article was originally published on April 9, 2004 by Robert Brown.

WITH the recent opening of the Tesco Express store at Buckingham Parade, Kempshott, and the forthcoming opening of the Tesco Metro store opposite Woolworths in the Basingstoke shopping centre, on April 16, they bring the subject of supermarkets to this series.

Before the Second World War (1939-45), Basingstoke had very few large food shops in which customers could get all their shopping under one roof.

The Co-operative store in Essex Road was one such place, as well as the International Stores in the Market Place, but the other general grocery shops did not stock a full variety of food. The Co-operative was closed by 1960 and moved to New Street.

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Basingstoke Gazette: DJ Simon Dee opens the Tesco supermarket in the new shopping centre in 1968

By 1950, London Street had the Home and Colonial, Louis Rogers and David Grieg; Winchester Street contained Pearks Dairies, Sanders Bros and HC Ody and Sons; Wote Street possessed the Forrest Stores and the Worlds Stores; and New Street had an assortment of shops under the Basingstoke Co-operative stores title.

This latter business was to demolish the little shops and build a large store on the site by 1960, and the International Stores were busy in the Market Place. But there was still no supermarket as we know them today.

The first sign of modernisation was the conversion of the International Stores to a self-service store in April 1958.

Up to then, the grocers’ shops, and indeed all the other shops, were served by the shopkeeper. You had to ask for the item that you wanted and the shopkeeper would hand it to you. The idea of self-service was to gain momentum over the years in Britain, and by 1967, there were 24,000 such stores.

In Basingstoke, the Town Development Scheme brought about the new town centre, the first phase of which was opened in November 1968.

Two leading stores, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, opened up business in that section, and the International Stores also moved to the shopping centre in 1979 but closed down in October 1981.

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Basingstoke Gazette: The Co-operative store in New Street in 1970

In 1984, Tesco moved to Chineham, while Sainsbury’s went to the Station Mall in the later phase of the shopping centre in May 1981.

The empty Tesco store was acquired by the Co-op Vista company, but closed down in February 1988, and the Sainsbury’s store was acquired by Bejam’s. In 1989, the Iceland grocery chain took over Bejam’s.

Sainsbury’s also acquired a site at Brighton Hill during the estate’s construction in the early 1970s, then moved to their present site at Hatch Warren in November 1988, leaving Robert Greig to move into the building at Brighton Hill. Greig’s closed down in 1998 and the place became derelict until ASDA was built on the site and opened in June 2003.

Meanwhile, other supermarkets opened up in Basingstoke. Safeway was built on the demolished site of the Thornycroft motor works and opened in June 1996, and Somerfield’s store in Winklebury opened in the year 2000.

The Co-operative stores in New Street, which opened in November 1961, were built at a cost of £122,000, but lasted only 22 years. It closed down in 1983 and was demolished in August 1985 for the construction of an office block.

The way we shop has changed tremendously over the years. With hypermarkets and out-of-town retail centres, restrictions on Sunday shopping being relaxed, and 24-hour opening, shopping has become a round-the-clock activity in this country.

The “rural” supermarkets have also had a serious effect on traffic flow in various towns, including Basingstoke.

Another feature of the changes is the type of food which is now sold. In the 1990s, supermarkets stocked more and more foreign dishes and continental-style breads, while avocados, mangoes, kiwi and passion fruit could also be bought, despite being unknown some 30 years before. Customers had more choice in these larger stores.

Sainsbury’s was started by John Sainsbury and his wife in the early 1870s. The first shop was opened in Kentish Town in 1873 with the help of their six sons.

Tesco’s business was created in 1924 when Jacob Cohen and Mr T E Stockell went into partnership to sell loose tea in packets from a street barrow in the East End of London.

So, for all those people wishing to start a new business, just remember, the way ahead is a long and hard battle, but persistence and good humour will bring fame and fortune in the end.