Piggly Wiggly History

An Interesting History of Piggly Wiggly

An Interesting History of Piggly Wiggly

Why would a franchise site post an article about the grocery store chain Piggly Wiggly? Because it is the only major grocery chain that is actually a franchise. But it also has a very interesting history.

Piggly Wiggly was founded by Clarence Saunders in 1916 located in Memphis, Tennessee. At that time all grocery stores served their customers via the point and get method. Meaning all the retail items were stored behind the counter and a customer would instruct the store clerk to retrieve the items from the shelf. At the time this was done in large part because many items were not well packaged and it prevented theft. It was also a very inefficient method of doing business as it slowed the shopping process, created longer wait times for customers and required more employees.

As the packaging of many items began to improve, Saunders set out to change this and completely redesigned his store setting up shelves where customers could browse the items on shelves throughout the store and grab the items they wanted. Even though critics believed it would only increase theft and would lack customer service, the model was a tremendous success and eventually led to the shopping method all grocery stores currently use.

Another interesting fact about Piggly Wiggly is no one really knows where the name came from. At the time, and even very much today most major grocery chains are named after their founders… Wegmans, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc. While Saunders never revealed why he chose the name but some speculate it could have been a take on the “this little piggy went to market” we play with kids and their toes or he was once inspired when seeing some baby pigs wiggling under a fence when sitting on a train. When asked why he would never reveal why the name Saunders would simply reply, “so people will ask”.

One final interesting fact about Piggly Wiggly is that while it was not Saunders himself, but a franchisee named Sylvan Goldman was the inventor of the grocery cart. He believed that if customers didn’t struggle to carry their items in a basket they would purchase more. At first the idea of a shopping cart was rejected by his customers… Women compared it to pushing a baby stroller and men took offense that they were not strong enough to carry a heavy basket. Goldman hired young women to model the carts… They would basically pretend they were shopping, pushing the cart around the store and adding their items. He also started hiring men to do the same thing and eventually the concept caught on. Eventually Goldman started manufacturing and selling his carts to other grocery stores which became a booming business!

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