Supermarkets

RACHEL SCHWARTZ

St. Joseph's College, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs220

The “supermarket revolution” began in the 1930s in the United States with the novel idea that sales volume and profits could be increased by lowering prices and building bigger stores (Mayo 1993). Initially shunned by grocery store chains, the supermarketing format became ubiquitous in the United States less than a decade later. Supermarkets now have become both globally ubiquitous and the gatekeepers of the food system, controlling the flow of resources between retail consumers and the majority of the production process.

Three phases, not mutually exclusive, mark the rise of these supermarket superpowers: the “boom” of origination and steady growth through the 1990s; the shift from quantity to quality during the late 1990s and early 2000s; and the still ongoing broadening of the retail sector in scope and scale.

The first phase is characterized by the introduction of self-service, high-volume, low-cost selling and the technological advances that enabled these changes. The supermarketing sales strategy is epitomized by the concept of “one-stop shopping”: a large store that sells meats, produce, dairy, bakery, canned and packaged foods, as well as nonfood items with self-service aisles and a location just outside the city center. Technological innovations such as free-standing shelving revolutionized the shopping, and retailing, experiences. Delivering items directly to the store and storing ...

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