International Stores and Green Shield Stamps

MANY readers will surely remember shopping at International Stores that once had branches throughout the UK, including several in the Woking area.

The store pictured here in the 1980s was on Rosemount Parade in West Byfleet and the posters in the window reveal prices of goods back then.

GONE SHOPPING: International Stores branch in West Byfleet in the 1980s

Heinz Baked Beans at 13p a can, Heinz soups at 16p, Homepride flour for 32p, beef burgers at 39p and 89p, and “all cod” fish fingers for 45p.

In the top left-hand corner of the window Green Shield Stamps are being promoted – “The DISCOUNT Stamp”. Who can forget them!

Green Shield Stamps were, of course, an incentive loyalty scheme, and launched in 1958. Shoppers were encouraged to collect the trading stamps on purchases they made, stick them into books, and then exchange them for all kinds of gifts.

Catalogues were issued that listed the many items the books of stamps could be exchanged for – such as drinking glasses and mugs, brush and comb sets, pots and pans and toys.

In fact, Green Shield Stamps’ catalogue stores were rebranded as Argos in 1973. Its trading stamps scheme did linger on until as late as 1991. And it’s worth recalling that there were other trading stamps schemes in operation in the 1960s and 70s including Pink Stamps and the Co-op’s own divided stamps.

Back to International Stores: it was founded in 1878 by Hudson Kearley and G. A. Tongue who opened a store in Brentford.

Mr Kearley had previously worked for a tea merchant in London and used this experience to start his own business. In 1895, the International Tea Company, as it was known, began production of biscuits, cakes, sweets and jams, and the business grew throughout the 20th century.

In 1972 it was acquired by BAT Industries (British American Tobacco) and re-branded as International Stores. The Dee Corporation bought the business in 1984 and in 1988 rebranded it The Gateway Corporation.

However, Gateway stores were renamed Somerfield in 1994, while in 2009 the business was acquired by the Co-operative Group in 2009 for £1.57 billion. At the time Somerfield was the sixth largest food retailer in the UK. By 2011, the Co-op had converted all the stores to its own brand name.

If  you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call me, David Rose, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at:

For the full story get the 13 February edition of the News & Mail

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