Iceland, specialising in the retail
of frozen foods and electrical appliances across the United Kingdom,
began trading in 1970, when two young entrepreneurs, Malcolm Walker
and Peter Hinchcliffe, rented a shop in Oswestry and bought freezers
and stock on credit. By 1975 they had 18 stores across North Wales.
This growth was facilitated by the use of a large coldstore in Rhyl
in 1973. They bought out small freezer centres as well as establishing
new stores developing on a reputation of bright, clean and well
fitted out stores. In 1977, they opened a store in Manchester that
marks the beginning of Iceland as it is known now selling convenient
In 1981, Walker and Hinchcliffe sold 16% of the business to the
British Rail Pension Fund for £1.6 million. In 1982, Iceland started
to market its own-label range, opened new offices in Deeside, and
updated their computer system. In 1983, Iceland became a public
company and acquired St. Catherine's chain of 18 stores just before
they went bankrupt. On the 16th October 1984 Iceland was floated
on the stock exchange. They bought out Orchard Frozen Foods and
there was an acrimonious merger with Bejam. By the end of 1986 Iceland
could truly claim to be a national food company.
In the 1990's Iceland developed new ways of serving customers in
their homes and in the development of ethical food retailing in
the UK. In October 1999, Iceland launched the world's first national
food home shopping service on the internet, free of charge, subject
to a minimum order value. By the end of 1999 Iceland were UK's third
largest frozen food supplier to caterers, Woodward Foodservice.
The appliance division, in October 1998, launched the Kyoto range
of environmentally friendly fridges and freezers - the first products
in the world ever to be endorsed by Greenpeace. They also developed
the appliance service and delivery business.
In January 2000, Iceland announced an agreement with Bhs to open
food sections in up to 100 of their stores by the end of 2001. In
March 2000 new branding under Iceland.co.uk, and also revealed that
they were on their way to becoming the first UK food retailer to
guarantee that all its meat is raised on entirely GM-free diets.
And in June 2000, Iceland announced a £9 million investment to bring
organic food to the mass market for the first time. Also in June
2000 they merged with Booker plc, Britain's largest cash and carry
group supplying over 100,000 independent retailers and more than
300,000 catering outlets. It is now Iceland Group Plc.
Iceland Group Plc has a chain of 760 stores and employs over 20,000
people. Its 1999 sales were over £1.9 billion (but expected to increase
to £5.5 billion following the merger with Booker plc.) with a market
capitalisation of £648 million.