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On This Day in 1916: First ‘Supermarket’ Opened in the United States

Piggly Wiggly became the first store where shoppers served themselves. (Representational Image: Shutterstock)

Piggly Wiggly became the first store where shoppers served themselves. (Representational Image: Shutterstock)

Clarence Saunders founded Piggly Wiggly in 1916 and launched its first store in Memphis city of the landlocked US state

On September 6, 1916 America’s first true self-service grocery store opened up in the southern state of Tennessee. Before stores like Walmart, Target took over the country and defined the modern supermarket, it was Piggly Wiggly that showed American consumers how to shop in large grocery stores.

Clarence Saunders founded Piggly Wiggly in 1916 and launched its first store in Memphis city of the landlocked US state. Saunders revolutionised the shopping experience of the American shoppers, who at the time had to present their orders to clerks at grocery stores, who then gathered the goods from the shelves.

With Piggly Wiggly, Saunders wished to reduce the time and cut the losses, so he came up with a brand new solution that would redefine the entire grocery industry. Piggly Wiggly became the first store where shoppers served themselves.

At the time Saunders introduced this new idea, his contemporaries were certain that Piggly Wiggly would not last. However, when Saunders’ first store opened on September 6, 1916 at 79 Jefferson Street in Memphis it was a fascinating sight for the shoppers.

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The store had arranged for shopping baskets, open shelves, and no clerks to shop for the customers. Saunders established Piggly Wiggly Corporation which secured the self-service format and issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers to operate their own Piggly Wiggly stores across the US.

The brand became the first to introduce many of the things that have become the norm today. Piggly Wiggly was the first to provide checkout stands, price mark every item in the store. The store also became known for giving shoppers more for their food dollar through high volume/low profit margin retailing.

Piggly Wiggly also was the first grocery store to use refrigerated cases to keep the produce fresher for a longer period. The store also asked its employees to be in uniforms for

With its success, Piggly Wiggly Corporation continued to prosper as a franchisor for hundreds of independently owned grocery stores operating under the Piggly Wiggly name across the US.

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first published:September 06, 2021, 07:00 IST