The Super Market(er)

September 6, 1916

Founder Clarence Saunders, the father of self-service groceries, was an aggressive marketer as evidenced by a barrage of ads and promotions leading up to his first Piggly Wiggly — “patents and copyright applied for” — opening at 79 Jefferson.

An opening day beauty contest might have pickets at his doorstep today, but it drew a crowd of women hoping to land the $10 (in gold) prize. “The RED-HAIRED GIRLS WON THE DAY…”, proclaimed a large advertisement the following morning.

But Saunders pre-opening promotions were purposeful, too, one plainly stating the rules of this new method of shopping where customers proceeded through aisles, lined with shelves, selecting their own products.

There will be no backward movements in the Piggly Wiggly — no turning around or back-stepping. Once you pass the revolving gate that swings out one way at the entrance … you will have to complete the circuit of the store.

Think what you will of his marketing, but Saunders’ self-service concept spread like fire. Within six years, there were 1,200 stores in 29 states.

Pink Palace
Pink Palace