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British Expat Newsletter:
1 October 2008

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: The globalisation of shopping
  • Write for British Expat
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Sponsor
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

We’ve written in the past about the homogenisation of British High Streets (in a newsletter we sent out almost exactly three years ago, the last time we were in the UK. Has it really been so long?)

We were in Kuala Lumpur recently. In a way it was nice to see some familar shops there too, such as The Body Shop. But it got me thinking that it’s not just British High Streets which all seem the same these days, but almost every shopping mall in many countries.

In Thailand, for example, where we spend most of our time, we have Carrefour, Tesco, Boots, The Body Shop, Pizza Hut, Baskin & Robbins, McDonald’s, Häagen-Dazs, KFC, Domino Pizza, Délifrance, Marks & Spencer, Starbucks… Except for the two hypermarket chains, most modern shopping malls seem to have representatives of all or most of these chains somewhere. And there’s at least one supermarket which we know of which now stocks Waitrose products.

I thought it might be interesting to find out just how global some of these familiar companies are. Here’s what I found out.

Marks & Spencer are perhaps THE High Street name – they’re the UK’s largest clothing retailer (even after the rise of Primark and Matalan). It wasn’t until 1975 that they made their first foray across the Channel (to Paris). Now, despite having had to close several of their European wholly-owned operations (including that Paris store) in 2001, they have over 285 outlets in 40 territories, in addition to the 600+ they have in the UK. (One of the things they’ve been selling since 2006 is tumble-dryable suits! Whatever next?)

Incidentally, did you know that M&S might have been M&B? Apparently when Michael Marks took on Tom Spencer as his partner, the business was briefly known as, er, Marks & Boughton. (If Wikipedia’s to be believed, that is – I haven’t been able to find anything online to corroborate this…)

Boots seems to have had a chequered past, particularly in recent years. The first Boots shop was opened in 1849 in Nottingham by John Boot, and his son Jesse expanded the business into a nationwide operation. But although the first Boots store outside the United Kingdom opened in 1936, the company has often had difficulties establishing itself. Boots’s purchase of the Tamblyn chain in Canada, for instance, failed to lead to the kind of success it expected – possibly because the UK model was ill-adapted to Canadian circumstances. So although Boots International has a presence in 20 countries, in many instances this isn’t a retail presence; Thailand seems to be the one foreign country where Boots shops have really established themselves – with over 150 (compared with 2,500 in the UK).

The Body Shop brand has fared much better. It’s only 32 years old, but it’s grown from a single shop in Brighton to cover over 2,400 stores in 61 countries. It’s no longer an independent chain – Dame Anita Roddick and her husband Gordon sold it to Loréal in 2006, a year before Dame Anita’s untimely death aged just 64 – but it claims to maintain the same ethical standards which were its hallmark from its earliest years.

IKEA aren’t exactly a High Street name, of course – most of their vast warehouses are in edge-of-town locations or brownfield conversions of older buildings. But they’re certainly an international name. By the way, do you know what nationality of company IKEA is? Can you guess? (The answer is below this week’s Joke.)

According to Wiki, the chain has 278 stores in 36 countries, spread across Europe, the United States, Canada, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. (This varies a little from the facts on IKEA’s official site – they list 37 countries, and only 260 stores – but they only seem to be quoting up to the end of 2007.)

I found it quite fun to dig out these facts and figures. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them.

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

Founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick’s website is worth a browse.  Their links page has lots of interesting links too.

You know how Brits often refer to Timbuktu in the same way as Outer Mongolia and other places where most of us are unlikely to go? Just for fun I did an Internet search for shopping in Timbuktu. The most interesting thing I found was that the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Timbuktu. I bet you didn’t know that!

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • men like in bed
  • what is british and garlic bread
  • asmallworld invitation email eg view dear
  • jedi census
  • cook rice british colander
  • this is me in bulgaria
  • blackberry curry
  • massage parlours trafalgar square
  • otter antibiotic uk
  • nuns jokes about themselves

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine


(More a joke than a quotation, really…)

“A blind bloke walks into a shop with a guide dog. He picks the dog up and starts swinging it around his head. Alarmed, a shop assistant calls out: ‘Can I help, sir?’

“‘No thanks,’ says the blind bloke. ‘Just looking.'”

– Tommy Cooper, magician and comedian (1921-84)


Last night police were called to a branch of Pizza Hut after the body of a member of staff was found covered in mushrooms, onions, ham and cheese. The police spokesman said that there was a strong possibility that the man had topped himself.

IKEA question

We asked whether you knew which nationality the company IKEA is. If you thought it was Swedish, then you’re wrong – it was founded in Sweden, but it’s now a Dutch company, with headquarters in Leiden. You live and learn, eh?

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