The Lost Precinct Advent Calendar – #19 Gateway Superstores

“Full of Fresh Ideas” – for 1987 

The Ad of Christmas Past

Till the early 1980s, there was a seemingly unwritten rule that ensured all supermarket chain adverts shouted about its prices. TESCO’s Checkout campaigns in 1977 and 1982 perpetuated this though with less brash tones. By the mid-1980s, chains turned their guns towards the experience of shopping in a TESCO, ASDA, Safeway, or Fine Fare.

 

By Christmas 1987, The Dee Corporation rationalised its superstore brands. Gone was Fine Fare; Carrefour soldered on for another two years. Their standard brand would be Gateway. This advert signalled a break with the past: snazzy new logo; postmodern/Docklands Light Railway style superstores; and a commitment to fresh food.

It is a rather glossy ad for the time, which suggested ‘market repositioning’. Subsequent ads would see humour introduced (such as speeding tortoises and the sparks coming off its feet). Others would take an upmarket look. With Morrisons still struggling get a foothold in the South of England at the time, Gateway alongside Safeway would challenge J. Sainsbury’s stores in their traditional domain.

The Shop of Christmas Past

 

Gateway was among a number of supermarket brands owned by The Dee Corporation in 1986 and their oldest. The Gateway chain dated back from 1875 as Bristol based J.H. Mills. Two years after J. Sainsbury introduced self-service shopping, in 1950, Gateway Foodmarkets was born as a self-service chain.

In 1977, they were taken over by Linfood Holdings who owned the Frank Dee Supermarkets, and DEE Discount stores. By then, the Gateway fascia reached Northern England. Hyde’s original Gateway Foodmarket was situated in The [Clarendon] Mall shopping centre; Denton’s branch faced the open market ground.

In the late 1980s, the smaller stores coexisted with the supermarkets and hypermarkets under the Gateway name. One restructuring later, as The Isosceles Group, its smaller stores became branches of Somerfield. Some of its hypermarkets became Food Giant discount stores, with former Fine Fare Hypermarkets (such as those in Hyde and Blackpool) two examples.

By 1998, the Gateway name disappeared with Somerfield being adopted more. That year saw the purchase of Kwik Save from Albert Gubay, with some Kwik Saves adopting the Somerfield format (as was the case with Stalybridge’s branch in 1999). Some Food Giants – including Hyde’s – became Kwik Saves (with the Cheshire town having two branches, the other being on Market Street).

After issues with debt, Somerfield left the scene in 2008 when The Cooperative took over its remaining stores. Even the sale of Kwik Save in 2005 failed to save the Bristol business. The assets of which were transferred to The Cooperative’s Manchester offices on Balloon Street.

In Tameside, Ashton’s Bow Street branch of Kwik Save had a short lived period as a Somerfield before being B&M Bargains. Denton’s became a branch of Healds Day and Nite then after changing hands, closed with the unit remaining empty. Stalybridge’s fared better with its Kwik Save store being a Somerfield for ten years. It is now a busy branch of Aldi.

S.V., 19 December 2015.

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