Exterior of Sainsbury's Sutton branch, 1907
One of the largest parts of the collection is our series of photographs. It contains many images of branches of Sainsbury's, some of which no longer exist and some that have seen great change throughout their history. The photographs provide a snapshot of what shopping looked like from the 1890s to the 2000s. The photographs can tell us a great deal, from what employees wore to the layout of stores. They can also tell us what goods were for sale and the way they were displayed. This allows us to visually compare how shopping experiences changed over the twentieth century.
Our earliest photographs show stores that were decorated with elegant tiles for aesthetic and hygienic reasons. The male workforce stand behind counters piled high with uncovered goods, ready to be measured out to a customer's specifications. In the early 1950s there was a small revolution in food shopping as counter service stores were replaced with self-service supermarkets. Some of our shop photographs beautifully illustrate this change in British retail habits.