How Piggly Wiggly Became The First Modern Grocery Store

Customers at Piggly Wiggly experienced grocery shopping as they never had before. Turnstiles at the entrance led them to a continuous path through the store, flanked by open shelves of merchandise to choose from. After reaching the cash register and paying for their purchases, another turnstile brought them smoothly out to the exit. While uniformed employees were on hand to stock the shelves, it was up to the customer to choose their own products.


In designing Piggly Wiggly, Saunders thought about how people shopped, and put impulse items, such as candy, close to the checkout. The continuous path through the store controlled traffic and kept people moving toward the cash register, all while being tempted by the products available to them that they were forced to see as they made their way through the store. And with so many choices available, branding became important as products needed to stand out somehow to attract shoppers’ attention. Piggly Wiggly not only redefined how people shopped, but it changed their perceptions of the merchandise.

Among the innovations Piggly Wiggly offered were wooden shopping baskets to carry items in, and price-marked merchandise to make selection easier. The cost-saving elimination of clerks to do the shopping was passed on in savings to customers, who flocked to the store where prices were cheaper and they could make their own choices.


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