In grocery stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders to clerks who gathered the goods from the store shelves. Instead customers entered the revolutionary Piggly Wiggly store through turnstiles and walked through four aisles to view the store�s 605 items sold in packages and organized into departments. They selected their goods as they continued through the maze to a cashier. Instantly, packaging and brand recognition became important to companies and consumers. Without self-service, modern branded packaged goods would not exist.
Piggly Wiggly was the first store to:
- provide checkout stands.
- price mark every item in the store.
- feature a full line of nationally advertised brands.
- use refrigerated cases to keep produce fresher longer.
- put employees in uniforms for cleaner, more sanitary food handling.
- design and use patented fixtures and equipment throughout the store.
- franchise independent grocers to operate under the self-service method of food merchandising.
The concept of the "Self-Serving Store" was patented by Saunders in 1917.
Piggly Wiggly Corporation, secured the self-service format and issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of Piggly Wiggly stores. The success of Piggly Wiggly was phenomenal. At its peak, the company was operating 2,660 stores and posting sales of $180 million a year. Other independent and chain grocery stores changed to self-service through the 1930s.
The original Piggly Wiggly Corporation became owner of all Piggly Wiggly properties: the name, the patents, etc., and Saunders began issuing stock in the Corporation. This stock was successfully traded on the New York Stock Exchange for some time, but Saunders lost control in a famous Wall Street bear raid, and his company was soon carved up and sold off. Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly and had no further association with the company.
The smaller Piggly Wiggly Corporation continued to prosper as franchiser for the hundreds of independently owned grocery stores franchised to operate under the Piggly Wiggly name and over the next several decades, functioned successfully under various owners.
There are presently over 600 independently owned and operated stores in 16 states.
The modern Aldi store is very similar to the original Piggly Wiggly concept in many ways.
Saunders' reason for choosing the intriguing name Piggly Wiggly remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin. One story is that he saw from a train window several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to him then. Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, and Saunders' reply was, "So people will ask that very question." He wanted and found a name that would be talked about and remembered. According to one employee handbook, the name is derived from the children's rhyme "This Little Piggy Went to Market."
Its motto is "Piggly-Wiggly All Over the World". One rival entrepreneur opened a store: "Hoggly-Woggly Only One in the World"
- U.S. Patent 1242872 - Self-serving store -- C. Saunders
- Piggly Wiggly Company home page
- Fresh Brands, Inc. home page (Piggly Wiggly franchisee in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois; based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin)
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