10 Things to Know About British Supermarkets

During the Covid-19 pandemic, U.K. supermarkets have been a real saving grace, staying open when virtually everything else was forced to close. To celebrate their sterling service at a very difficult time, here are 10 things to know about the places where most Brits pick up their groceries.

1. The U.K.'s largest supermarket chain is Tesco, which has a market share of 28.3% and 3,443 stores nationwide.

In the '90s, Fawlty Towers actress Prunella Scales starred in a popular TV spot for the chain with the slogan: "Every little helps."

2. Sainsbury's, Asda, and Morrisons are the second, third, and fourth largest supermarket chains.

Sainsbury's in particular is known for its touching Christmas TV ads, including this lovely example from 2018.

3. The U.K.'s poshest supermarket chain is probably Waitrose.

There's even a branch in Poundbury, the new town endorsed and built on land owned by Prince Charles. The Prince and Waitrose have also partnered on an organic food range called Waitrose Duchy Organic.

4. It's also pretty posh to do your grocery shopping at Marks & Spencer.

Most M&S department stores have their own food hall, and since 2001 the chain has also operated standalone grocery stores known as "M&S Simply Food." Their TV commercials are expertly made to make your mouth water.

5. The U.K. has really embraced the German discount supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi.

Both have around 800 stores across the country and a rapidly growing market share.

6. Another popular supermarket chain is called Iceland.

Which has nothing to do with the Nordic country, and everything to do with frozen food: Ice land. Wisely, the chain has now retired its rather sexist advertising tagline: "That's why mums go to Iceland."

7. Be careful when you visit your favorite supermarket on a Sunday.

Stores larger than 280 square meters are only allowed to trade for six hours on Sundays, meaning they typically only open between 10am and 4pm. Smaller convenience stores are allowed to stay open for longer, but outside of big cities, the vast majority don't operate 24/7.

8. All the major supermarket chains now have their own online stores.

And according to the latest stats, the most purchased item at these stores is... alcoholic drinks.

9. The most popular British term for a convenience store is "corner shop."

And this applies whether the store in question is located on a street corner or not. There's even a British indie band called Cornershop who scored a huge '90s hit with "Brimful of Asha."

10. Oh, and if you're a Londoner who's simply too posh to shop in a supermarket, there's always Harrods Food Hall.

Absolutely Fabulous fans will remember that this is where Jennifer Saunders' over-spending character Edina Monsoon buys her groceries.

Do you have a favorite British supermarket chain?