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El Corte Inglés, Spain's biggest chain of department stores, was founded in 1940 by Ramón Areces, who had a Madrid tailor shop on Madrid's Calle Preciados. On Areces' death Isidoro Álvarez was named his successor, and shortly became one of the most powerful men in Spain. In 1995 El Corte Inglés bought out its only serious competitor, Galerias Preciados.

Offshoots of the El Corte Inglés empire include Viajes El Corte Inglés (a travel agency), Hipercor (a chain of hypermarkets), Opencor (upmarket convenience stores) Supercor (supermarkets) and Sfera (a Zara- style clothes, accessories and beauty product chain). In 2001 a store was opened in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the reasons of the success of El Corte Inglés is its money-back guarantee policy: unsatisfied customers can usually return their faulty goods or unwanted presents for a cash refund.es:El Corte Inglés

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