Monday, September 26, 2011

Invention of the Day: Supermarket.

On October 9, 1917, Clarence Saunders received US patent 1,242,872 for a new kind of retail store. His key idea was customer self-service, a concept that is alive and well today after almost a century of shopping innovation. Here's a quote from his patent application (reads like a description of a modern IKEA store):

The object of my said invention is to provide a store equipment by which the customer will be enabled to serve himself and, in so doing, will be required to review the entire assortment of goods carried in stock, conveniently and attractively displayed, and after selecting the list of goods desired, will be required to pass a checking and paying station at which the goods selected may be billed, packed, and settled for before retiring from the store, thus relieving the store of a large proportion of the usual incidental expenses or overhead charges, required to operate it, all as will be hereinafter more fully described and claimed.

A photo of his original Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Memphis, Tennessee (below).

tags: invention, business, model, problem, scale, patent, innovation

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