El Corte Inglés S.A. (English: The English Cut as in tailor's cut), headquartered in Madrid, is the biggest department store group in Europe and ranks fourth worldwide. El Corte Inglés is Spain's only remaining department store chain, as well as owner of several associated businesses, such as:
In 1934, the founder Ramón Areces Rodriguez bought a tailor shop (which had opened in 1890) located on one of Madrid's most central streets, calle Preciados, and made it into a limited company. At 15, Mr. Areces had migrated to Havana, Cuba, and worked at the famous retail chain Almacenes El Encanto, where he learned the basics of department store business. In 1940, he turned the shop into the current corporation El Corte Inglés, S.A.. On the death of Areces in 1989, his nephew, Isidoro Álvarez, was named his successor and quickly became one of the most powerful men in Spain. In 1995, El Corte Inglés bought out its only serious competitor, Galerías Preciados, which had entered bankruptcy.
Stores tend to be very large in size and offer a wide range of products: stores may sell music, movies, portable and household electronics, furniture, hardware, books, clothes, groceries, gourmet food, cars and real estate.
International expansion began in 2001 in Portugal, with a store in Lisbon, followed in 2006 with a store in Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite the city of Porto, and a third store is planned. In the same year[when?] the company announced expansion outside the Iberian Peninsula: Italy was to be the first country to host a store but, owing to the crisis, the plan was suspended.
In October 2013, the firm sold a 51% stake in the financing department to Spanish banking group Grupo Santander for around €140 million.