The last two decades have been characterised by an increasing internationalisation of retail activity and a considerable number of academic attempts to classify or categorise this activity. A number of different classifications have been proposed based mainly on interactions amongst geographical spread, market entry, managerial outlook and managerial flexibility. However, an examination of three leading international grocery chains on such criteria reveals little communality in pattern or process. Instead internationalisation is marked by different, perhaps serendipitous, patterns and by periods of retrenchment and reconsideration of activities, within a generic strategy of front of store adaptation and back of store standardisation. Previous classifications are therefore partial, time-bound semi-descriptions which need to be supplemented by detailed long-term examination of the internationalisation activities and processes of individual companies.