Post-war building licenses
In contrast to the construction boom of the 1920s and 1930s, there were severe restrictions on new building in the years following the Second World War.
It was not until 1950 that Sainsbury’s was able to begin modernizing its existing stores, first at Selsdon, then with the first self-service store at London Road, Croydon.
Licenses for new buildings were difficult to obtain and former bomb sites were prioritised for re-building. They were often too small to be ideal but stores were re-built with the new emphasis on technology and cleanliness.
The East Grinstead store featured prefabricated chilled counters and air-conditioned preparation rooms. When the shop opened on 18th September 1951 the press described it as ‘the most modern hygienic food shop in the South of England, and possibly in the whole country’.
As a part of the post-war plan to re-build Britain, a number of New Towns, ‘Expanded Towns’ and London estates were built. Sainsbury’s opened self-service stores on the first two estates built by the London County Council (LCC) to re-house those made homeless in the Blitz at Debden and Grange Hill in Essex.
The store in Debden was the first shop in the New Broadway Parade, on an unmade road. The estate was built on marshland and was so far out in Essex that the store was referred to by head office staff as ‘Fort Debden’. The new store opened to customers on November 3 1952, providing a mixture of self-service and counter service for goods which were still rationed.