By Kevin Farrell

How we wound up with supermarkets: A history of the grocery store

Grocery stores have come a long way. Here’s a look at all of the innovations and upgrades that took us from the very first general store to the impressive supermarkets of today.


The first store to let customers shop for themselves was Memphis' Piggly Wiggly in 1916. Prior to this, consumers would give their lists to clerks, then wait for them to collect the goods.

The shopping cart

Shopping carts wouldn’t be seen in stores until 1937, when they were introduced to Humpty Dumpty locations by Sylvan Goodman.

The drive-in market

In the 1930s, grocers adapted to the needs of Los Angeles by testing out grocery malls, where butchers, bakers, produce and dry goods grocers all set up shop next to one another.


Coca-Cola invented the coupon in 1887. It became an almost instant success story, but the idea wouldn't pick up until the 1950s when coupon redemption could be better regulated.

The supermarket

Back on the East Coast around 1930, the first true supermarket debuted: King Kullen. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, and competitors adopted the model across the country.

One-stop shopping

Originally made popular by brands like Fred Meyer, the one-stop model didn’t permeate the rest of the country until the 1990s when Kmart and Walmart began adding grocery departments.

American Express, Visa & Mastercard

There was a time when grocery store checkout lanes log jammed as cashiers and customers juggled handwritten checks, balance books and driver's licenses.

In 1958, the first American Express credit cards debuted, which allowed holders to add funds to an account accessible via their plastic card. Eventually, debit and credit cards reduced checkout times.


Invented by David R. Humble in 1992, self-service checkout terminals rose to near-ubiquity in the early aughts, before facing a stiff backlash and losing significant market space.

Smart stores

In 2018, Kroger announced that its Kroger Edge technology would be rolled out. Aisles were outfitted entirely with digital prices.

Amazon Go

These stores use hundreds of cameras and sensors along with a mandatory app on consumer smartphones to track and charge the items that people just walk out with.



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