Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Grocery Store Chains

Aisle, Background, Buy, Clean, Food  Most of us grew up with grocery stores.  We'd go over, fill our carts with everything we needed or wanted for the next week or two, check out and bring everything home.

The self serving grocery store which is what we are accustomed to shopping at has only been around since the early 1900's. 

Up until then, you'd walk into a store, give the clerk your list and they would get it from the shelves, ring it up, and you'd walk out of the store with your items sort of like that store in Little House on the Prairie.  Most people at that time were not as brand aware as we are today because the clerks chose the brands, not the shoppers.

The first recognized self service grocery store was actually patented by Clarence Saunders in 1914 and he opened his first Piggly Wiggly store in 1916.  He took time to franchise it across the country to create one of the first grocery chains.  Safeway purchased the west coast stores between 1928 and 1935 before they became part of the Safeway name.

At about the same time Clarence was starting his chain, Alpha Beta was becoming self serve in Southern California.  What set it apart from most other grocery stores is the owners alphabetized all the products from A to Z, thus the name.

Early self service grocery stores were also known as Groceterias after the idea of cafeterias that were becoming popular at the time.  It wasn't until the 1920's that these chains took off.  Safeway formed in 1926 when Skaggs Cash stores merged with Seelig stores. Other chains such Kroger and A&P exploded taking over the country.  Around the same time in California, the "drive-in" market began where several smaller specialized stores opened in the same mall so people could get everything in one stop.

In general, most stores tended to be more specialized such as selling meats, or tea rather than being what we are used to at this time but during the 1920's and 30's stores there were more mergers between grocery or dry goods stores with produce or butchers to create a larger more complete market.  It wasn't until 1930, when Michael Cullen opened his chain of King Kullen's.  This chain is considered the first supermarket but everything was sold out of crates, no decor but lots of free parking. So the products there cost less than competing stores.

Throughout the 1930's stores continued combining to become bigger and bigger but most continued owning both the newer supermarkets and the older specialty stores. Slowly over the next 20 years, the specialty stores disappeared after being absorbed by supermarkets so they had largely disappeared by the 1950's.  The 1950's and 60's gained the reputation of being the age of the supermarkets because new ones opened regularly but by the 1970's zoning regulations had stores backing off on their extreme designs and both discount and warehouses began to grow.

In the years since, some have merged with others, some have closed down, there have been a few new ones such as Trader Joes, and Whole Foods emerging as players in the crowd.  Others such as Fred Meyers and Walmart sell both groceries, clothing, kitchen supplies, furniture, sporting goods, etc.  In addition, Amazon and those meal services will provide food through online ordering.

What is the future of grocery stores and supermarkets?  I don't know but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

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