International Tea Co. Stores
The business was founded in 1878 by Hudson Kearly (later Viscount Devonport) and Gilbert Augustus Tonge as the International Tea Co., with the objective of selling tea direct to consumers rather than through wholesalers.
Their main blenders were Ridgways.
International Tea Co. Stores fell out of the FT30 index in 1947 to conform with market developments at the time.
Demise of the business
The company was subsequently rebranded International Stores and was acquired by BAT Industries in 1972. In 1973 the Price Rite chain was purchased, adding stores to the International brand. This was further increased by the purchase of F J Wallis Supermakrets in 1977, which added a further 100 stores. After acquiring the large foot print Mac Food Centres from Unilever's closure of Mac Fisheries, in 1979, the chain created a new brand Mainstop to develop the new superstore division in 1980. However BAT decided to sell off any business that failed to progress and so the company was sold off in chunks. Former Price Rite stores in the south of England were sold off in 1980 to Fine Fare, with the remaining 67 branches were sold to Argyll Foods in 1982. 15 of the Mainstop stores were sold to various chains, with the remaining eight being intergrated into International Stores.