The Way Piggly Wiggly Was A Pioneer In The Grocery Store Industry
By Aimee Lamoureux
Before businessman Clarence Saunders opened the first Piggly Wiggly in 1916, grocery stores had always been operated by grocery clerks, who would collect the items their customers wanted from a list. Saunders thought this method was inefficient because it wasted time, money, and labor.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, Piggly Wiggly was the first grocery store that allowed customers to wander amongst the store's inventory, selecting their own merchandise before bringing it up to the front to pay at the checkout stand. At the end of their shopping experience, customers would receive a printed receipt — another first for the grocery store industry.
Piggly Wiggly revolutionized the entire grocery store experience by doing away with store credit, introducing checkout stands, selling full lineups of different brand names, standardizing uniforms for its employees, and even storing fresh produce in refrigerated cases. It also offered pre-measured, pre-bagged versions of dry goods like sugar and flour, which would have been weighed out by grocery clerks in the past.
Piggly Wiggly was also the first shop to display price tags on all of its products, allowing customers to compare the value of different brands and creating a standardized pricing experience. According to Mental Floss, under the old grocery store model, the costs of each item were held inside the clerk's head, often leading to an inconsistent and even sometimes biased pricing system.