Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Origin: The Wheeled Shopping Trolley

The first shopping cart was developed in 1937 by Sylvan Goldman, the owner of the Humpty Dumpty Supermarket chain in Oklahoma City.

Having purchased the bankrupt chain of retail grocers in the South in 1934, the tail end of the Great Depression, profit margins were smaller as people bought the cheaper items. His chain was facing ruin. Looking at ways to increase profits, he had noticed that shoppers did no further shopping when their carry basket was full. Invariably they took the basket to the cashier, rather than starting a new basket, weight seeming to be the determining factor. Pondering this in his office whilst looking at a chair in front of him, an ide developed.  In the cartoons a light bulb suddenly switches on.  His idea was to take the weight of the shopping basket out of the equation by adding wheels and a metal basket to a frame similar to a wooden folding chair. The final design allowed for the wire baskets to be removed from the frame and for the frame to be folded, like a chair, for storage and stacking.

It was an instant success.

Actually, it wasn’t.

People don’t like change, whether that change occurs in their daily lives, their home or when shopping. The Humpty Dumpty shoppers still preferred the heavy single basket and still called it quits for shopping when the basket was full. Men found the wheeled wooden chair effeminate and women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. He overcame this by paying cool looking men and women to walk around the supermarkets using trolleys to pretend do their shopping, thereby inspiring others to do the same. He also stationed people at the entry to the shops to greet them and offer them a wheeled cart. Shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire. He continued to make modifications to his original design. One important modification was that the basket size of the shopping cart was increased as stores realised that their customers purchased more as its size increased. At his death in 1984, Goldman was worth $400m.

Btw, the latest development in shopping carts is the addition of a computer and GPS.  You tell it what you want and it takes you there.  It has a computer interface with LCD screen and it can also be programmed with a shopping list at the commencement of shopping, so that it will work it all out for you.  It is still in the development stage but is tipped to revolutionise store shopping.


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