University of Brighton Press Release
University of Brighton Web Release
Gateshead Press Release
Gateshead Web Release
ROCC Press Release
Gateshead Celebrates World’s First Home
Gateshead Council is about to celebrate an
amazing technological milestone after tracking down the world’s first ever
online home shopper.
The council’s Shopping and Information Service (SiS) paved the way for the
$500 billion business we know today as internet shopping, and the first
ever home user of the service made her first purchase 25 years ago this
Proving itself just as caring, innovative and forward-thinking a council
as it remains today, Gateshead Council used the service to provide
elderly, and socially and physically disadvantaged residents of the
borough with an easier way of buying their groceries. And Mrs Jane
Snowball, then 72, bought the first item from her local Tesco supermarket
in May 1984, by using her television set and remote control.
Although Mrs Snowball, along with her husband Ned, who lived together in
Underwood on the Leam Lane Estate in Gateshead, have since passed away,
Gateshead Council are due to present her children, Derek, (61), from
London, Alan (74), of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, and Marion Alderson
(63), of Southampton, with a commemorative gift to mark their mother’s
contribution to the beginnings of what is now a worldwide market used by
millions of people each day across the globe. The event will take place at
a special private reception in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic Centre, on
Originally pioneered by senior geography lecturer at Newcastle University
Ross Davies following a social study into shoppers’ needs, the hardware
and software for SiS were developed by Rediffusion (later ROCC) Computers
using the online shopping system invented by the company’s founder Michael
Aldrich in 1979. Tesco, together with Greggs the Bakers and Lloydspharmacy,
were the first retailers to sign up to the project. All in all,
Rediffusion loaned Gateshead Council £80,000 worth of equipment and
training to start SiS, which today would be around £185,000.
Gateshead Council still offers a shopping service today, for older people
who find it difficult to get to the shops due to a disability or as a
result of being housebound, and most of the service staff have been in
post for over eight years, ensuring they are committed to providing a
great service and giving the customer value for money.
Leader of Gateshead Council Mick Henry said: “Gateshead has a long and
proud history of looking after its citizens in all circumstances, and this
innovative project demonstrates that. Today the council remains just as
committed not only to the welfare and quality of life of its residents,
but also to utilising the latest technologies in order to help make
Gateshead the best place to live, work and visit.
“One example of this is the Gateshead Technology Innovation scheme*, which
was launched last year at the borough’s Baltic Business Quarter. Strides
like this could not be taken without the enthusiasm and open-mindedness of
residents such as Mrs Snowball, and it is a great honour to be able to
mark her contribution to the development of Gateshead, by welcoming her
three children to the borough for this very special event.
“By recognising Mrs Snowball in this way, we celebrate our
responsibilities to the less advantaged and our success at finding
innovative new ways to be of assistance to them.”
Michael Aldrich, who now lives in Arizona, said: “I was prompted to
develop the system because I disliked the weekly family supermarket
expedition, and within five years Gateshead Council was providing it as a
home shopping service for its less mobile citizens, with Mrs Snowball
launching a worldwide industry. The north has more than one angel.
“It has been hugely satisfying finding Mrs Snowball after a long search
and I am very proud to have been associated with the Gateshead SiS. It was
born out of the desire to provide a true public service and supported by
the partners as such. It helped people who needed helping.”
Derek Snowball, on behalf of his siblings added: ”My mother was a devoted
to her home shopping system and demonstrated it to everyone who came to
the house. It helped tremendously when my father needed round the clock
“My wife and I worked in the IT industry at the time and were frustrated
that we had to queue at the supermarket checkouts. When SiS came to our
town we placed an order in the first week. If others had seen the system
in operation in Gateshead, the take up of home shopping may have been more
rapid, but my Mam certainly thought it was smashing.”
A Newcastle University spokesperson said: “Professor Ross Davies was one
of the first entrepreneurial academics, encouraging Tesco and Gateshead
Council to undertake a groundbreaking experiment in social inclusion which
laid down the foundations for e-commerce in the UK, and opened up new
horizons for many people.
"Decades after his achievement, the University's staff continue to lead
the way in new research areas and technologies, always striving to ensure
our work will benefit the communities around us. The late Professor Ross
Davies, a leading UK academic in the field of retail management, spent
over 10 years at Newcastle University, where he established a reputation
as a retail geographer.”
Graham Randell, Corporate Social Responsibility Director for Greggs said:
“As a responsible business rooted in the North East community, Greggs has
always admired the way that Gateshead Council take a lead in enhancing the
quality of life of its residents.
“Greggs are proud to have supported such an innovative scheme 25 years ago
and we will continue to find ways to serve the wider community as well as
our customers now and into the future.”
And Iain Bowie, Area Manager for Lloydspharmacy added: “As a business, we
were delighted to be a part of the SiS initiative 25 years ago.
Lloydspharmacy is always looking for ways to make customers’ lives easier
and with SiS, Gateshead Council provided an innovative opportunity not to
“We can all see now how pioneering the service was. It’s amazing to see
how far internet shopping has progressed. Lloydspharmacy now has its own
website where visitors can buy products, find out about healthcare
services, order Express Prescriptions and even speak to a doctor all
online. For those who have difficulty getting out and about it’s
Media contact: Judy Stirling, Communications Officer, Gateshead Council
Tel: (0191) 433 2026 Email:
Notes to Editors:
• In 2008, Alcatel-Lucent, one of the world's largest telecoms companies,
joined forces with Gateshead Council in a joint venture company to develop
a superhigh-capacity network serving the Baltic Business Quarter
development. When complete, the state-of-the art optical network will
support services such as video conferencing, video on demand, streaming
media, data storage and protection, disaster recovery and image
processing. The system will be of a standard available in only a very few
locations in the UK, and as good as the best in the world.
• The SiS project began on a trial basis in 1980 at a local community
centre, and involved orders being taken from a Tesco catalogue and
recorded into a computerised cash register using a bar code reader. The
process was largely manual, with orders physically transferred to the
Tesco store where they were packed and delivered.
• On April 1, 1981, a microcomputer at Sunderland Road Library later
linked with the microcomputer in Tesco’s Gateshead branch. The scheme was
then extended to Chopwell Library, Felling Library and Fountain View Day
Centre in Bensham using a telephone exchange system to record the items
ordered and send them to Tesco’s microcomputer.
• Additional retailers Greggs the Bakers and Lloydspharmacy came on board
in the summer of 1983, but the system lacked an interactive link to the
retailer and it was decided the system should focus on residents that were
• Gateshead Adult Social services adopted the scheme using Rediffusion’s
£80,000 videotex system, which was physically installed in people’s homes,
and in sheltered housing schemes at Bill Quay and Saltmeadows, using a TV
set and remote control, and in phase three, three years after its original
inception, Mrs Snowball became the world’s first online home shopper.
• The modified TVs used for SiS were made at the Rediffusion factory in
West Auckland, County Durham and the Aldrich’s lived in Yarm between 1967
and 1971, current CEO of ROCC Luke having been born at Stockton General
• 1,350 products were available and could be delivered from the retailer
to the resident within hours of placing an order.
• The scheme in this format ran until at least 1996 when the internet as
we know it today was born.
More information on the birth of home shopping can be found at:
About Gateshead Council’s current shopping service:
• The service helps you to keep your independence by making sure you can
still access all of the goods sold at supermarkets and in other local
stores when you are not able to go yourself.
• We will need to do an assessment to see if you can get the service but
after that it’s really easy to use:
• Step one: You will be given a catalogue, which acts a guide to the
products available, and all you have to do is select which ones you want.
• Step two: An operator will phone you on the same day each week (or
however frequently you use the service) to take your order.
• Step three: A member of our team will collect your requested items then
deliver them to your door.
• Our staff are always careful to check use-by dates to make sure you get
the best value for your money and our refrigerated vans ensure all
products reach you in good condition. What’s more, if an item is found to
be out of stock, they will do their best to get you a suitable
• There is a small cost of £5.45 for the service but there is no minimum
• Lloydspharmacy has around 1,700 pharmacies across the UK. These are
based predominantly in community and health centre locations. The company
employs over 16,000 staff and dispenses over 145 million prescription
• Lloydspharmacy, which is a community pharmacy, has primary care at the
heart of its business. This is why it has launched a range of products
aimed at improving community health such as affordable blood pressure
monitors and allergy relievers, as well as a suite of convenient
professional health check services including free blood pressure and
diabetes testing, and cholesterol and heart checks in the comfort of a
private consultation room.
• Lloydspharmacy is the trading name of Lloydspharmacy Ltd, a wholly owned
subsidiary of Celesio AG based in Stuttgart. Celesio is the leading
pharmaceutical distribution company in Europe and is represented in 16
countries. With its three divisions, Celesio Wholesale, Celesio Pharmacies
and Celesio Solutions, the group covers the entire scope of
Some key facts about Lloydspharmacy:
• In 2007/8 Lloydspharmacy had turnover of £1.7 billion
• Prescription processing is up 9% to 145.4 million.
• Over 1.25 million free Type 2 diabetes screening tests and 1.5 million
blood pressure tests completed to date.
• 18,700 cholesterol and heart checks completed to date
• Lloydspharmacy offers more private consultation areas than any other
pharmacy – currently they are available in 95% of Lloydspharmacies (1,630)
Lloydspharmacy media contact: Claire Connoly, press officer – 024 7643
2192, 07798 826 332,
Media contact: Jule Wilson, Communications Officer, Gateshead Council
Tel: (0191) 433 2026 Email: