Axe Stores (this is a description not an instruction)

At the end of July I received an email from a freelance journalist, Steve Cain, seeking any information on Food Giant and Axe Stores. In normal times I know I had material somewhere in my office on Food Giant.  But Axe Stores rang no bells with me.  I tried a couple of colleagues, and Steve Burt responded as below:

This then led to a more detailed focused search via Google (the clue was PAM) which revealed the following piece in a book by Christopher Moir and John Dawson (Chapter by Grigor McClelland – Founder of the Manchester Business School, whose family firm was Laws Stores)

Source: Moir C and J A Dawson (1990) Competition and Markets: essays in honour of Margaret Hall

More importantly perhaps it led to Facebook page and a picture of an Axe Store and a post by an ex-manager.


For Steve Cain’s purpose this was fine and he has used the material in a piece which is published today in a host of local newspapers, and can be downloaded below. It contains the Axe photo from Facebook as above.

Beyond marvelling at the memory and database of my colleague, the outcome about Axe Stores was of some interest generally, but raises some questions about retail history and internationalisation.

We do not know why an Italian company chose to come to the UK.  The choice of Hintons is a little ‘left-field’ to say the least.  Why did this relationship break up?

Steve Burt’s memory was of a north-east of England chain, so the link to the stores in the South-West of England was unexpected.  But why would you run stores in two such dispersed parts of England?   How did this work and how was it managed?  Why did Axe Stores end? On these questions we have no answers … yet.

Steve Cain’s piece is about things we had forgotten that no longer existed in the food discount retail field.  Whilst circumstances meant I could not help on Food Giant (I know I have more) I at least learnt something about a chain I knew nothing about.

There is more to learn though and if anyone has anything of interest about Axe Stores please get in touch.

This episode has encouraged me to dig out my old 35mm slide collection of retail stores, much of which was scanned 15 years ago. I know that has a lot of 1970s and 1980s photos including interiors of discount stores of the time.  I can see an intermittent series of posts coming on these and other oddities.

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
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12 Responses to Axe Stores (this is a description not an instruction)

  1. rogerdboyle says:

    Do you have any Burtons in your slide collection – please share if so!

  2. Huw Stevenson says:

    Good morning, Leigh

    Hope you are keeping well and certainly the grey cells seem to be firing on all cylinders.

    As a high street retail agent of the early 80s (working in south west rather than north west) the Axe name does not ring any bells with me – but might do if I saw a store list. I can think of a few agents who might recall them and a few in the north west who would be better placed on that leg of the enquiry.

    Food Giant is more familiar – I would say it came out of Somerfield as a chain – and at Clive Lewis and Partners we had a bit of a push to acquire outlets for them. The property side was run by Martin Meech (who I think joined Somerfield from Halfords) – most recently main board property at Travis Perkins but I am not sure which way he went after the Wickes split, still at TP I think. He might be able to fill in large gaps there.

    If of any interest, and it is looking a long way back rather than forward where I know much of your work is, there is an online community which gets together in person 2 or 3 times a year, of primarily retail agents from the 70s/80s, now all embracing retirement but always ready with a tale or two of yesteryear – and particularly their deals and clients! You might find answers to some of these sort of questions in that fraternity.

    Your Argos piece last year reminded me of the early Comet outlets – warehouse units with long counters, regular full double page press adverts listing all the deals available in close type – I remember being driven with a friend in what must have been the early/mid seventies from Northwood (HA61BG) to Hayes, probably half an hour plus in those days, to bulk buy some BASF audio cassettes. It seemed like a good thing to do at the time!

    Keep safe


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  3. Leigh Sparks says:


    Thanks for the comment. Interesting, it was not a name that I recall at all. We will see what response we get from this and other channels. Your group reminiscing sounds interesting. I have an early memory of trading in Green Shield stamps at their Cardiff store for some audio related product, which must therefore be very early 1970s.

    Hope things good with you

    All the best


  4. Brian Robson says:

    Leigh, I grew up on the outskirts of Sunderland in the 80s, and there was a discount store called Axe on a parade of shops in Pennywell, a large council estate. It traded on the same parade as a branch of Presto, and various independents. I don’t remember a great deal about it – apart from that my mother was somewhat sceptical about the cleanliness of the store…! We had a number of branches of Hintons in Sunderland, so the location ‘fits’. The parade had a high level of voids and was eventually demolished (early 90s ish) and replaced with a small neighbourhood centre opposite, now home to an Iceland and an Asda superstore (originally Kwik Save, later Netto).

  5. Leigh Sparks says:

    Brian, thanks for commenting. Interesting churn of names on the site there. Am following a few leads on people who can tell me more about Axe and if we get anywhere I will post. Leigh

  6. Pingback: Discount Food Stores in the UK: Kwik Save and Shoprite | Stirlingretail

  7. Greg says:

    As a child I remember several Axe stores in the early to mid 1980s and sometimes checked the internet to find out more without result. Today a picture came up when looking for something else and I ended up here, really nice to see an AXE store again. I remember the falling Axe logo in painted windows on at least the Redcar store with the words Axe – Cut of Value. They were extremely discount inside with wooden shelves and not too bright if memory serves me right. I remember my mum buying jam that was only available there, it was a foreign brand. Stores I remember (just checked them again on Google) 113 High St, Redcar. 41, High Street, Stokesley. 51 Roman Rd, Middlesbrough (this one my Dad called Axe for years after it had become a branch of Star Discount. There was another Star Discount on 91 Parliament Road in Middlesbrough that I think used to be an Axe too.
    New question – Star Discount. Who were they? The Parliament Road branch went upmarket as a “Country Fresh” but was definitely still part of the same company as the Star Discount store carried Country Fresh own brand products.

  8. Leigh Sparks says:

    Not found anything on Star yet, but it is ringing bells so will keep looking. Did tweet out about your query and received an interesting response about Axe in the SW which included this cutting (not a pleasant story) and another name I had not heard – Romart. Given surname in report I can guess origin.

    (thanks to Dan Lockton –

  9. John Heagney says:

    Leigh, Star Discount was Goole based and owned by Chris Houseman. My brother Mike and I bought his three Teesside stores, Roman Road Middlesbrough, Parliament Road Middlesbrough (both mentioned above) and Ormesby in the early 90’s and traded them in our group of twelve stores as Heagneys Supermarkets. We sold out in 1999.

  10. Carl says:

    I remember the AKE store in Redcar and also remember the chopping axe sign (chopping the prices down) it would have been in the late 70’s or 80- 81 as we moved overseas then.

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