The supermarket chain with the coolest name in the business, Piggly Wiggly, operates in the Southern and Midwestern regions of the United States; its current headquarters is in Keene, New Hampshire.
The first store opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee and is notable for having been the first true self-service grocery store and the originator of various modern-day features such as checkout stands, individual item price marking and shopping carts. It was founded on September 6, 1916, at 79 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, by Clarence Saunders. A replica of the original store has been constructed in the Memphis Pink Palace Museum and Planetarium, a mansion that Saunders built as his private residence, which was later sold to the city. Where did the name Piggly Wiggly come from? Saunders was never said.
When Saunders founded the store grocery stores did not allow their customers to select their own groceries. A customer would give a list of items to a clerk who would then go through the store and pick them out. The side effect was greater cost and higher prices.
Piggly Wiggly introduced the idea of letting customers to go through the store choosing their own goods which cut costs and allowed for lower prices.
Piggly Wiggly issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of its stores. The concept of the "self-serving store" was patented by Saunders in 1917. Customers entered the store through a turnstile and walked through four aisles to view the store’s 605 items sold in packages and organized into departments. This was important from the marketing concept as packaging and brand recognition became important. They were also the first to: provide checkout stands, price mark every item in the store and provide shopping carts for customers, starting in 1937 in Oklahoma.
Their phenomenal success lead to other grocery stores changing to self-service in the 1920s and 1930s. At its peak in 1932, the company operated 2,660 stores. In late 1922, Saunders attempted a squeeze on the company's the stock, running the share price up from $40 to $120 and profiting by millions on paper. As a result, the Stock Exchange determined that a corner had been established and removed the stock from the Board eventually forcing Saunders to turn over his assets to the banks that had financed his leveraged position. Saunders shenanigans reputedly cost him nine million dollars.
Following that, the company was divided into units and sold to regional grocery chains, including Kroger, Safeway, National Tea, and Colonial. In 1935 all Canadian Piggly Wiggly stores were sold to Canada Safeway, which merged with Sobeys in 2013.
After he lost control of the company Saunders had no further association with the company although he remained interested in the concept of automated shopping which he experimented with initially with the Keedoozle store until his death in 1953. Keedoozle was the first fully automated grocery store in the United States and used vending machines. The three stores all failed because the mechanical technology used in the vending machines was not capable of handling the high traffic loads.
Piggly Wiggly was a pioneer in Just In Time inventory strategy.
This strategy was so successful that the management of the Toyota Corporation used it as a model to develop its Toyota Production System (TPS).
There are presently more than 600 independently owned and operated stores in 17 states and they are found predominantly in medium to smaller size cities. In many larger cities national grocery chains have built larger supermarkets with greater variety and selection than Piggly Wiggly.
If you live in Jacksonville, North Carolina, today only they have the 128 oz. Piggly Wiggly Orange Juice on sale for only $1.51!