Travel back to 1926 when J Sainsbury launched in Luton town centre

“If the bell rings as you buy, your goods are free – so come and try!”

By Carly Smith, Luton Heritage Forum
Friday, 31st December 2021, 4:32 pm

For decades, Luton families would rely on J Sainsbury on George Street to supply the ingredients for their Christmas dinners. Pictured here soon after its opening in 1926, the existing building was erected on the site of the last private residence on the road, the former home of Dr Horace Sworder.

Its launch was accompanied by a full page illustrated advert in the Luton News, which detailed how, “thousands of Lutonians and visitors availed themselves of the opportunity of treading the mosaic floor and admiring the richness of the internal decorations of the shop during view days last week”.

It went on to describe how, “supplies are received from headquarters daily, so there is no necessity of loading up the shop with stock and keeping it until it is sold. The delivery to customers is equally prompt, and a fleet of motor vans are carrying the goods to customers’ homes in Luton”.

J Sainsbury in George Street, Luton

For the reception of orders there was a telephone – and there was no charge for delivery. By the 1930s the branch was thriving, with seasonal adverts promising, “Sainsbury quality will make your Christmas dinner a success, for nearly everything for that splendid spread can be bought at Sainsbury’s”.

In the year of its 10th anniversary, it expanded into the adjacent unit to become ‘The biggest and best food store in the county’ and ran a promotion to celebrate: “If the bell rings as you buy, your goods are free – so come and try!”.

The 1939 Register shows 11 shop staff living above the store, including a ‘qualified senior assistant’ and a ‘butcher and cutter’.

After over 45 years of trading, in August 1972, the branch closed its doors for good and was replaced with a more modern store in the newly built Arndale Centre, now The Mall, three days later.

Today, the building continues to serve the needs of local shoppers. The ground floor of the building is home to Sam 99p, with serviced offices above.

Many of the exterior’s original features remain, and it is also believed that the glazed ceramic wall tiles are still in situ beneath the current shop fittings inside.