The early activities of British international retailers remain relatively unexplored and little understood. This paper considers the role of British companies operating through retail outlets in overseas markets. It identifies the characteristics of those companies, their retail activities, the markets selected and the entry methods used. This paper seeks to begin the process of addressing a considerable gap in the history literature. The findings presented in the paper are placed within a history and management understanding of the retail internationalisation process. The theoretical implications of these findings are explored.