Yesterday, The Queen visited Sainsbury’s in Covent Garden to commemorate its 150th anniversary.
Lord and Lady Sainsbury and Chairman Martin Scicluna greeted Her Majesty upon arrival and walked her through the pop-up store, designed to take visitors back in time throughout the market’s history. The shop features vintage versions of its products and services, including period packaging and other artefacts.
John James and Mary Ann Sainsbury opened the first Sainsbury’s in 1869 at 173 Drury Lane, then one of London’s poorest parts. At first only eggs, milk, and butter were sold; by 1882, however, Sainsbury’s had expanded to three additional shops throughout the city and was able to offer its first Sainsbury’s branded product – bacon. The chain became known for its low priced yet high quality goods.
During part of the tour The Queen was shown how shop clerks used to measure and charge customers for their items. She inspected a number of stalls and recalled her family’s own World War II ration book when discussing the item with Lord and Lady Sainsbury.
“We were lucky to have a farm,” she said. She also recalled that Sundays were treat days when the family would enjoy something sweet.
Towards the end of the engagement Damien Corcoran, a Sainsbury’s operations manager, demonstrated a self-checkout station. Her Majesty appeared fascinated by the idea that shoppers could tally up their own bill. “And you can’t trick it, then? You can’t cheat it?” she asked Mr. Corcoran.
Speaking to Town and Country after the visit, Mr. Corcorcan said, “One of the things that The Queen noticed immediately was that there might be the opportunity to manipulate the system and maybe not scan items. I discussed that there are sensitive scales built into this device which weigh the items.”
Her Majesty unveiled a plaque to mark her visit and cut a slice of celebratory cake. Claire Patak, the American baker responsible for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s lemon and elderflower wedding cake last year, created a citrus and floral concoction for the ceremony.
Finally, The Queen unveiled a plaque in honour of the visit to the old Sainsbury’s store and cut a cake. pic.twitter.com/xcOg7gcLWK
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) May 22, 2019
The Queen met approximately 33 staff members as well as actors playing roles of period shop clerks. Louise Beresford played a character from the 1940s, observed that Her Majesty appeared to be greatly enjoying herself.
“She’s got that glint in her eye, she was asking questions and having a bit of a giggle at things that were going on,” Ms. Berefsord reported.
The Sainsbury’s 150 Experience is located in Covent Garden Plaza and is on view from 25 to 26 May.