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Selling strawberries got him the sack from Woolworths - now he's about to open his 900th store

Grange Moor-born entrepreneur Sir Malcolm Walker opens latest Iceland store

Iceland boss Malcolm Walker

Food retailer Iceland has opened its 900th UK store – 47 years after the firm’s Grange Moor-born founder and chairman Sir Malcolm Walker opened his first shop.

The company, which has stores at Aspley and Trinity Street in Huddersfield, has opened its 900th store – the 53rd outlet under The Food Warehouse brand – in South Bristol.

Sir Malcolm said: “On November 18, it will be exactly 47 years since I opened the first Iceland store in Oswestry – and back then nine stores looked a towering ambition, never mind 900.

“I am delighted that we have reached this new milestone as a distinctive British company with a unique culture, fantastic colleagues and so many great products that you genuinely can’t find anywhere else.”

Iceland’s first Food Warehouse opened in September, 2014. It now has plans to open 25 new stores a year.

The company has also been refurbishing its core Iceland estate of 847 UK stores at the rate of one a week, bringing new fascias and frontages, digital signage, improved store layouts and new checkouts as well as new product ranges.

Iceland has expanded its total UK estate by 100 stores in just over four years, creating more than 2,000 new jobs in the process.

Sir Malcolm said: “Our major investments of at least £750,000 in each new The Food Warehouse store and over £500,000 in each Iceland refurbishment underline our confidence in the future of our business and I very much look forward to celebrating the opening of our 1,000th store around the time of Iceland’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2020.”

Iceland founder and chief executive Malcolm Walker (left) is congratulated by Prof Bob Cryan, vice-chancellor of Huddersfield University, on his honorary doctorate

Sir Malcolm began his business as a sideline in 1970 with capital of just £30 while working as a trainee manager at Woolworths.

His venture selling strawberries from a roadside stall got him the sack from Woolies – but set him on the path to building one of the biggest names on the high street.

As well as being a commercial success, under Mr Walker’s auspices, Iceland has raised millions of pounds for good causes, including Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Help for Heroes and Alzheimer’s Research UK. His personal fundraising efforts have included taking part in the Iceland Everest Expedition of 2011 with his son Richard, a record-breaking abseil down the outside of The Shard 2012 and an unsupported trek to the South Pole in the same year – when he had to be airlifted for emergency medical treatment.

He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield in 2015.

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