Woman inspecting food label in grocery store
The World's First Supermarket Was Created To End Grocery Delivery
Grocery stores as we know them today have only existed for about a century, thanks to the Piggly Wiggly that opened in 1916 in Memphis.
Before grocery stores, meat and produce were sold in farmers' markets or at specialized establishments like butcher shops and bakeries by traveling salesmen or street peddlers.
Over time, general stores popped up to concentrate goods and wares in one location, especially in rural areas that weren't large enough to support many individual merchants.
Even when different types of food began being sold in a single location, the items were stored out of sight. The clerk would fetch and deliver customers' desired items.
Thus, customers wasted time waiting and had little agency over their final orders as they didn't know what they were getting until it was handed to them.
Noticing the inefficiency of this model, Clarence Saunders thought a self-service style of shopping would save time and opened the Piggly Wiggly.
The new model saved time and money and quickly became popular, paving the way for current-day supermarkets.