Le Riches Stores
- 1818: First Le Riche grocery shop opens in Jersey and begins business as a wine shipper as well
- 1897: Le Riche incorporates as Le Riche's Stores Limited
- 1905: Ann Street Brewery is founded
- 1952: Ann Street extends into soft drinks with a Coca-Cola franchise for the Channel Islands
- 1958: Ann Street adds a distribution license for Bollinger champagne
- 1960: Le Riche takes over another prominent Channel Islands retailer, Orviss
- 1967: Le Riche acquires a Marks and Spencer franchise and opens the first store in Jersey
- 1971: Ian Steven becomes head of the Ann Street Brewery and leads its expansion as the Channel Islands leading brewery and pubs group.
- 1980s:Le Riche debuts the Stampers convenience store format
- 1991: Le Riche acquires CI Bakers, the leading commercial baker in Jersey
- 1993: Le Riche opens the first Checkers superstore in Jersey
- 1995: Le Riche debuts The Wine Warehouse retail format
- 1998: Le Riche acquires full control of Russell Meats
- 1999: Le Riche sells its automotive sales operation
- 2000: Ann Street acquires the Blubeckers restaurant group in southern England.
- 2001: Le Riche opens a second Marks and Spencer store, acquires Warry's commercial baker, and opens a Checkers superstore - all in Guernsey
- 2002: Le Riche acquires Channel Rentals, Channel Publications, and TABS from ComProp Ltd; Le Riche and Ann Street merge under privately held CI Traders, which then lists on the AIM market.
- 2003: CI sells off the mainland England pubs portfolio in order to focus on retail growth
The Le Riche Group originated as a grocery shop founded by the Le Riche family in 1818. Located in St Helier, the Le Riche grocery business grew into the most prominent retailer on the Channel Islands. In 1897, the business was incorporated formally as Le Riche's Stores Limited.
Le Riche expanded by opening new store locations across Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney. The company's retailing operations, and the necessity of bringing goods onshore from the English mainland, led it to extend its operations to include grocery and beverage wholesale services. The company, given the Channel Islands' location between France and England, also became one of the islands' most important wine shippers, an activity begun in the group's early years. The company also later became involved in new and used automobile sales, and operated its own service stations.
By the late 1950s Le Riche was one of the top two retailers on the Channel Islands. In 1960 the company claimed the top spot through its takeover of rival Orviss. That company had also been one of the oldest and largest grocers on the island. In the mid 1960s Le Riche expanded again by acquiring the franchise to operate Marks and Spencer stores on the Channel Islands. The first of these opened in 1967 in Jersey, and was relocated to King Street in 1978.
While the Le Riche's grocery chain extended to six stores - two each in Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney - the company began developing new retail formats in the 1980s. The first of these was launched under the name of Stampers. The small-scale, community convenience format featured extended opening hours, seven days a week and continued to grow into the 1990s, developing into a 12-store chain, ten in Jersey.
In 1991 the company moved into the wholesale bakery sector with its acquisition of CI Bakery, the islands' largest baker, based in Jersey. On the retail front, Le Riche responded to the growing trend toward supermarket superstores in the United Kingdom and elsewhere by launching its own superstore format. Called Checkers, the company's first superstore was established in Jersey in 1993.
The company launched another successful retail formula at mid-decade, The Wine Warehouse. With an offer of guaranteed low prices, backed by a promotional campaign featuring a "gruff" Frenchman, Gaston Duplonk, Wine Warehouse opened in St. Martin's Guernsey. The success of the first store led the company to roll out two more self-standing stores, in New Era and Quennevais in Jersey, and as a boutique shop with the soon-to-début Guernsey Checkers.
After selling off its automotive business in 1999, Le Riche turned its attention to solidifying its hold on the Channel Islands' retail market, then under threat from the entry of UK supermarket giant Safeway and the plans to open a superstore by the Channel Islands Co-op retail group. The company began construction on a new Checkers superstore, which opened in Guernsey in 2001. At 52,000 square feet, the new store easily became the Channel Islands' largest. At the same time the company began a renovation of the smaller Jersey-based Checkers.
Le Riche, which had changed its name to Le Riche Group in 1998, also had expanded its department store operation. In 2001 the company opened its second Marks and Spencer store, again under franchise, in Centre Point, St. Brelade.
A merger between Le Riche and the Ann Street Group, another leading Channel Islands business group, had been spoken about for years, with no result.
Ann Street had been founded as a brewery in St Helier in 1905. The company had brewed ale originally, then switched to other beer types in the 1950s. At that time the company branched out into other beverage types, acquiring the license to manufacture and distribute Coca-Cola in the Channel Islands in 1952.
Ann Street remained a modest-sized business into the early 1970s. A turning point for the group came in 1971, when Ian Steven took over as the company's lead. Ann Street began developing its pub estate holdings, which grew to more than 100 across the Channel Islands. The company also entered the French market, acquiring L'Abeille, that country's leading supplier of private-label soft drinks for the French supermarket sector. Into the 1990s Ann Street, which, like Le Riche, was listed on the London Stock Exchange's main board, began seeking an extension on to the English mainland, building up a pub estate in southern England. In 2000 the company acquired the Brubeckers restaurant chain.
Le Riche launched an acquisition drive, starting with the purchase of full control of Russell Meats, a leading supplier of meat in the Islands in 1998. In 2001 the company bopught LS Warry and Sons, the only commercial baker in Guernsey, cementing Le Riche's position as the leading commercial baker in the Channel Islands.
Ann Street in the meantime had come under the leadership of Tom Scott, an English expatriate who had relocated to the island to escape British taxes in the mid-1980s. Scott soon grew into a leading figure on the Channel Islands business scene, setting up a new business, CI Traders, which provided automotive financing, and acquiring a stake in Ann Street through another company. That shareholding gave Scott the executive chairman seat in the company.
In 2002, Scott led a three-way merger among Ann Street, Le Riche, and his own company, bringing the brewer and pub owner under the CI Traders banner. The newly enlarged company then transferred its listing to the London exchange's AIM market, where it became one of that market's top five companies. Under CI Traders the company now shifted its emphasis on to its retail portfolio, selling off its mainland pub estate in order to step up its retail investments. Among the company's targets was an extension of its retail holdings into France. CI Traders hoped to expand beyond its dominance of the Channel Islands' business sector and become a mainland force in the new century.