|This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2013)|
|Founded||1970, Malcolm Walker|
|Headquarters||Deeside, Wales, United Kingdom|
|Number of locations||Over 800|
Iceland is a British supermarket chain operating in the UK and Ireland. Iceland's primary product lines are frozen foods, including prepared meals and vegetables. The company has an approximate 1.8% share of the UK food market.
Iceland began business in 1970, when Malcolm Walker opened the first store in Oswestry, England, with his business partner Peter Hinchcliffe investing £60 for one month's rent at the store. They were still employees of Woolworths at the time, and their employment was terminated once their employer discovered their job on the side. Iceland initially specialised in loose frozen food.
By 1975, there were 15+ Iceland outlets in North Wales, with the first supermarket-style outlet opening in Manchester a couple of years later. The firm's head office moved to Deeside, Wales, in 1979. Iceland was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1984, when it had 81 outlets.
In 1988, Iceland bought its competitor Bejam which was some two and a half times larger in terms of business. By February 2004, the combined chain had 760 stores throughout the UK.
In 1993 Iceland took over the food halls of the Littlewoods department store and also acquired the French Au Gel chain. The latter move proved unsuccessful and the stores were dropped within a year.
Iceland previously operated in Ireland through a franchisee, AIM Group, however in November 2013 Iceland bought the 7 stores and now operates them through its own estate. There are currently 8 stores in Ireland. The chain formerly operated its own stores, before pulling out in the early 2000s. A number of its former locations were re-opened by the franchiser.
Finding the retail market more hostile in the late 1990s, Iceland pursued avenues for differentiation. In 1998, the firm began to focus on providing organic food and genetically modified-free food. This policy saw the company convert its entire frozen vegetable range to organic in 2000.
In 1999, Iceland launched what it claimed to be the first nationwide, free, online grocery shopping service. This tied in with the rebranding of all outlets under the Iceland.co.uk fascia. The rebranding exercise was quietly abandoned in the early 2000s, as the unadorned Iceland name is now used more widely, although some stores still have the Iceland.co.uk name on display.
In May 2000, Iceland merged with Booker plc with Booker's Stuart Rose taking the role of CEO of the merged company. He left for the Arcadia Group in November 2000 and was replaced by Bill Grimsey in January 2001.
Soon after Grimsey's appointment, Malcolm Walker, Iceland's founder and chairman, was forced to stand down as it was revealed that he had sold £13.5 million of Iceland shares five weeks before the company released the first of several profits warnings. Walker was fully cleared of these allegations in October 2004.
Iceland's holding company was renamed the Big Food Group in February 2002, and attempted a refocus on the convenience sector with a bid for Londis. Grimsey remained until the takeover and demerger of the Big Food Group by a consortium led by the Icelandic company, Baugur Group in February 2005. Walker returned to his previous role at Iceland.
Iceland's website has a page critical of Grimsey's period in control.
After Baugur Group collapsed in 2009, a 77% stake in Iceland came into the ownership of the Icelandic banks Landsbanki and Glitnir. In 2012 the stake was purchased by a consortium including Malcolm Walker and Graham Kirkham.
Iceland was one of the many major retailers who took advantage of the Enterprise Zone incentives offered by the giant Merry Hill Shopping Centre which was developed at Brierley Hill in the West Midlands between 1985 and 1990. It opened a store there in 1989, relocating from Dudley town centre, only for this store to close a decade or so later.
In 1996, six stores were opened in Dublin and one in Letterkenny. They all closed down in 2005 owing to financial difficulties. In November 2008, a store reopened in Ballyfermot in Dublin, after Iceland agreed a franchise deal with an Irish cash and carry company, AIM, and in November 2009 a second store reopened in Finglas, Dublin. A third opened on the Navan Road in September 2010. A fourth store opened in the Ilac Centre in Dublin in November 2010. There are now five Iceland stores in Ireland. In November 2010, AIM announced plans to launch 40 new stores within four years.
Since Malcolm Walker's return to the company, Iceland has reduced the workforce by 500 jobs at the Deeside head office, with approximately 300 jobs moved in September as a result of a relocation of a distribution warehouse from Deeside to Warrington. During July 2006, 300 workers took industrial action with the support of their union, blocking several lorries from entering the depot. Despite this, the transfer to Warrington took place and the new warehouse was later outsourced to DHL in April 2007.
In January 2009, Iceland announced that it would buy 51 stores in the UK from the failed Woolworths Group chain, three days after the final 200 Woolworths stores closed their doors for the last time.
In April 2009, Iceland announced plans to close its appliance showrooms by September 2009 to concentrate on food retailing.
Iceland's sales for the year ended 27 March 2009 were £2.08 billion, a 16% increase on the previous year, with net profits of £113.7 million.
In May 2014, Iceland will be re-introducing online shopping again after 7 years
The company has more recently made large scale changes its promotions. In the past "Buy One Get One Free" and Meal Deals (a selection of products for a set price) were common in stores. These have now been reduced and replaced with products offering bigger packs at the original prices. The pricing system has also been changed with many products having their prices rounded up or down to the nearest multiple of 25p, this is known as Clear Cut Prices.
2006 also saw a huge surge in 'Home Delivery' promotion. This service is now one of the main focuses of the company. When a customer spends £25 or more, they have the option of free same-day home delivery.
Identity and marketing
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The supermarket historically advertised with the slogan "Mums Love It", which was changed to "Are we doing a deal or are we doing a deal?" and "Feel the deal" in the early 2000s. From the mid-2000s new ads featuring Kerry Katona saw a return to a slogan more traditionally associated with Iceland - "So that's why mums go to Iceland!" Katona was dropped as the face of Iceland in 2009, after a tabloid newspaper published pictures allegedly showing her taking cocaine. She has since been succeeded as the face of Iceland by Coleen Nolan, Ellie Taylor, Stacey Solomon and Peter Andre. Jason Donovan has also frequently appeared in the company's Christmas advert campaigns.
When the chain bought rival Bejam in 1989, they launched the TV-advertising campaign "Use Our Imagination," which included a song. The campaign was launched so quickly after the takeover that they had not time to convert all Bejam stores to the "Iceland" fascia. Because of this in the song for the commercial featured the line "We're at Bejam's too..."
In 2013, two labs, one in Dublin and another in Germany, on behalf of the Irish state agency FSAI, identified 0.1% equine DNA in some Iceland products. Malcolm Walker caused controversy when on a BBC Panorama programme (18 February 2013) he was asked why the products had passed British tests but failed the Irish ones. He replied, "Well, that's the Irish, isn't it?". The FSAI rejected Mr Walker's comments and warned that any attempt to cast doubt on the veracity and robustness of DNA testing carried out on its behalf was disingenuous, dishonest and untruthful, adding, “It is unprofessional that a vested interest would seek to undermine our position with misinformation and speculation". Walker subsequently apologised for the remarks. An Iceland spokesman said Walker's "comments were not intended to be disrespectful to the Irish people, including our many Irish customers, colleagues and suppliers, or to the Irish food safety authorities. We hold all of these in the very highest regard.”
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