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The History of Supermarkets

Grocery shopping has become a part of every household’s routine. Going to the supermarket and browsing the shelves to buy all your necessities is an errand often enjoyed by many as it offers a lot of freedom. It didn’t always used to be this way though. In the 1800s and early 1900s, grocery stores functioned differently, where one would present a grocery list to the clerk and the clerk would gather the products and give them to the costumer. These over-the-counter ‘supermarkets’ also existed as trucks that would drive around villages to make it more convenient for rural shoppers. Between 1915 and 1930, small supermarket-like shops where costumers could shop by themselves instead of a clerk doing it for them started popping up around the U.S. The first store who did this was called the Piggly Wiggly, which was located in Memphis, Tennessee. This is when convenience stores were born as well, as vendors started selling grocery items at times when the grocery stores were closed (most notably, Joe C. Thompson’s store, which later went on to become 7-Eleven). The first official supermarket was opened in Long Island, New York in 1930. It was called King Cullen and became extremely popular with the locals because of new technologies such as cars and refrigerators, which made it extremely easy to go grocery shopping at larger scales. A few years later on the other side of the country (Portland, Oregon), the first hypermarket was opened by Fred Meyer. Hypermarkets were stores where a grocery store, pharmacy, and even clothing store are combined into one, like present-day Walmart and Target. These stores started popping up all over the United States and were becoming extremely successful. They even made it through WWII, which was a time where many small grocers had to close due to loosing employees. In the 1950s, supermarkets made their way over the ocean, as similar models of grocery stores started opening up in Europe. As supermarkets became more popular, innovation surrounding them started developing. The shopping cart, as well as the barcode and scanner revolutionized the shopping game and once again, made it even more convenient for shoppers. With the increasingly popular organic and zero-waste movement, stores like Whole Foods and package free shops also became more popular. Since then, other conveniences such as self-checkout have also popped up in almost every grocery store. Today, there are hundreds of grocery stores to choose from depending on what your needs and wants are, but it is thanks to years of innovation that have led to that and made our shopping the most convenient and fun!


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