Piggly Wiggly® History
Where It Began...
Piggly Wiggly®, America's first true self-service grocery store, was founded in Memphis, Tenn. in 1916 by Clarence Saunders. In grocery stores of that time, shoppers presented their orders to clerks who gathered the goods from the store shelves. Saunders, a flamboyant and innovative man, noticed that this method resulted in wasted time and expense, so he came up with an unheard-of solution that would revolutionize the entire grocery industry: he developed a way for shoppers to serve themselves.
Despite predictions that this novel idea would fail, Saunders’ first store opened September 6, 1916 at 79 Jefferson Street in Memphis. Operating under the unusual name Piggly Wiggly, it was unlike any other grocery store of that time. There were shopping baskets, open shelves and no clerks to shop for the customer – all unheard of!
Piggly Wiggly Corporation, established by Saunders when he opened the first store in Memphis, secured the self-service format and issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of Piggly Wiggly stores.
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. The stock was successfully traded on the New York Stock Exchange for some time, but through a series of stock transactions in the early 1920s, Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly and had no further association with the company.
Piggly Wiggly Corporation continued to prosper as franchiser for the hundreds of independently owned grocery stores allowed to operate under the Piggly Wiggly name and during the next several decades, functioned successfully under various owners
All in a Name
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.
Piggly Wiggly® "Firsts"
Piggly Wiggly's introduction of self-service grocery shopping truly revolutionized the grocery industry. In fact, many of the conveniences and services that American shoppers now enjoy were introduced first by Piggly Wiggly®.
Piggly Wiggly® was the FIRST to...
provide checkout stands.
price mark every item in the store.
give shoppers more for their food dollar through high volume/low profit margin retailing.
• 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.