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International Tea Co. Stores

International Tea Co. Stores
Industry Retail
Fate Acquired
Successor Somerfield
Founded 1878
Defunct 1994
Headquarters London, UK
Products Groceries

International Tea Co. Stores was a leading chain of grocers based in London. It was a constituent of the FT 30 index of leading companies listed on the London Stock Exchange.


The business was founded in 1878 by Hudson Kearly (later Viscount Devonport) and Gilbert Augustus Tonge as the International Tea Co., with the objective of selling tea direct to consumers rather than through wholesalers.[1]

Their main blenders were Ridgways.[2]

Soon most towns in the South of England had their own International Tea Co. store,[1] as immortalised in a verse from John Betjeman's poem "Myfanwy":

Smooth down the Avenue glitters the bicycle,
Black-stockinged legs under navy blue serge,
Home and Colonial, Star, International,
Balancing bicycle leant on the verge.

International Tea Co. Stores fell out of the FT30 index in 1947 to conform with market developments at the time.[3]

Demise of the business

The company was subsequently rebranded International Stores and was acquired by BAT Industries in 1972.[4] In 1973 the Price Rite chain was purchased, adding stores to the International brand. This was further increased by the purchase of F J Wallis Supermakrets in 1977, which added a further 100 stores.[5] After acquiring the large foot print Mac Food Centres from Unilever's closure of Mac Fisheries,[6] in 1979, the chain created a new brand Mainstop to develop the new superstore division in 1980. However BAT decided to sell off any business that failed to progress and so the company was sold off in chunks. Former Price Rite stores in the south of England were sold off in 1980 to Fine Fare, with the remaining 67 branches were sold to Argyll Foods in 1982.[5] 15 of the Mainstop stores were sold to various chains, with the remaining eight being integrated into International Stores.

Finally in 1984, International Stores was sold on to The Dee Corporation.[7] This became Gateway Corporation in 1988, and then Somerfield in 1994.[8]


  1. ^ a b International Tea history
  2. ^ Competition Commission report
  3. ^
  4. ^ Competition Commission
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Mac Fisheries: History
  7. ^ Corporate Strategy in UK Food Retailing
  8. ^ Somerfield history
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