Fine Fare

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Fine Fare
Private company, Subsidiary
Industry Retail
Fate Acquired 1986
Successor The Dee Corporation
Founded 1951
Defunct 1988
Headquarters Welwyn Garden City, United Kingdom
Key people
James Gulliver, (Chairman 1967–1972)

Howardsgate Holdings 1951-1963

Associated British Foods 1963–1986

Dee Corporation 1986–1988
Subsidiaries Melias, Shoppers Paradise

Fine Fare was the name of a chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom. It was famous for its Yellow Pack budget own-label range, a fore runner to today's own brand basic ranges.

A Fine Fare store in Thirsk, 1968


The company started as a single supermarket in Welwyn Garden City in 1951 as an offshoot of the Welwyn Department Store[1] owned by Howardsgate Holdings, the company of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement.[2] It was one of a series of convenience store chains established in the 1950s, the others being Premier and Victor Value.[3] By 1962 it had over 200 shops.[4]

The company was acquired by Associated British Foods in 1963.[5] ABF appointed James Gulliver to the post of chairman of Fine Fare in 1967; he continued to lead the business until 1972.[6] Seven years after the takeover by Associated British Foods the turnover had grown from £75 million to £200 million.[7] In 1978 Fine Fare bought the East Anglian-based Downsway supermarket chain, which was owned by the Vestey family business, Union International Group. This added a further 80 stores to the group. Other chains purchased included Burton Supermarkets (Nottingham based), Elmos (East Anglian based) and Coopers (Scotland based in 1955).[8] The business was regularly listed as third in market share behind Sainsbury's and Tescos and had stores nationwide.

They also owned the Melias[9] and Shoppers Paradise[10] chains of convenience and discount food stores, and moved into the burgeoning DIY industry with their Fix and Fit stores (sold to WH Smiths Do it All in 1986).[11] In 1983, Fine Fare became Britain's first supermarket to sell organic foods.[12]

In 1986, ABF sold the company to The Dee Corporation (subsequently known as Somerfield).[13] Following this, all Dee Corporation's newly acquired stores were rebranded as Gateway or closed, and the Fine Fare name had disappeared by the end of the 1980s.

Fine Fare was perhaps most notable for its sponsorship of the Scottish Football League which commenced for the 1985-86 season (beginning August 1985)[14] to the 1987-88 season (which ended in May 1988, around the same time that the last Fine Fare stores closed).[15] The business also advertised on television with the most famous being fronted by the actor Gordon Jackson.[16]

Fine Fare was immortalised in the song "Aisle of Plenty" from the album Selling England by the Pound by the progressive rock band, Genesis.[17] It was also the subject of a song by the punk band The Toy Dolls called Nowt can compare to Sunderland Fine Fare from their fourth album Bare Faced Cheek.[18]


Fine Fare's depots were at Welwyn Garden City (Hertfordshire), East Kilbride (Lanarkshire), Washington (Tyne & Wear), Cheadle Hulme (Stockport), Hucknall (Nottingham), Tuffley (Gloucester) and Aylesford (Kent). Shoppers Paradise only depots were at East Kilbride (Lanarkshire), Weedon (Northampton), Stevenage (Hertfordshire) and Alton (Hampshire). Washington also held stocks of non-food items for national distribution.


  1. ^ "Welwyn Garden City:Welwyn Gardens own Supermarket Chain". Our Welwyn Garden City. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Obituary: Bryan Russel Archer - Architects Journal". Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Hamlett, Jane; Regulating UK supermarkets: an oral-history perspective By Jane Hamlett, Andrew Alexander, Adrian R. Bailey and Gareth Shaw, published by, accessdate: 2011-02-18
  4. ^ ''Twentieth century industrial archaeology'' By Michael Stratton, Barrie Stuart Trinder Page 82. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  5. ^ Associated British Foods: History[dead link]
  6. ^ James Gulliver Chairman of Food Group dies at 66 New York Times, 17 September 1996
  7. ^ "Obitury of Sir Alistair Grant - The Independent p.24 Jan 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Ms Dow antiques". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  9. ^ United Kingdom. "Louis Sherwood". Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  10. ^ "Strategy in Retailing: the development of Kwik Save Group plc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  11. ^ "The Lost Precinct: An A to Z of Defunct Retailers - EM60 East of the M60". Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  12. ^ The Death of Rural England: A Social History of the Countryside Since 1900 by Alun Howkins - ISBN 9780415138840
  13. ^ Somerfield: History[dead link]
  14. ^ "Celtic Match Programmes 1985". Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  15. ^ "Celtic Match Programmes 1987". Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  16. ^ "Gordon Jackson in Pictures". Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Aisle of Plenty lyrics". Retrieved 15 March 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Toy Dolls Lyrics - lyricsbox". Retrieved 17 April 2015.