100 Years of Food Retailing
Everything was getting bigger — consumers’ homes, stores and Progressive Grocer.
Starting with its October 1952 issue, the magazine’s publishers dropped “The” from the title and switched from the pocket-size format established over the prior three decades to a larger size — a move that symbolized developments going on in the industry at the time.
As the editor at that time explained, “In recent years it was felt more and more that a pocket-size magazine was a bit out of step with this vital, dynamic business of food retailing, where the volume was growing [by] leaps and bounds, stores were getting bigger and bigger, and dealers were adding more and more departments.”
Indeed, reacting to the post-World War II economy, grocers were building larger stores that featured more self-service sections, air conditioning, specialized lighting and modern equipment, and more ample parking. Exterior and interior décor also took on a new look as retailers experimented with neon signs, stripes and pastel colors. And the round turntable checkout counter was designed to help speed up a part of the supermarket that had become an irritation for customers.
- In Texas, H-E-B opened its first bona fide supermarkets, consolidating a fish market, butcher shop, pharmacy and bakery under one roof.
- Stater Bros., a relative newcomer to California, was operating 23 locations by the end of the decade.
- By the end of 1959, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee was operating 37 stores.
- In its January 1955 issue, Progressive Grocer reported that “shopping around for food is practiced by about three out of five housewives.” The characteristics that turned one store into their “favorite” included convenience, quality of products, low prices, and a “generally attractive atmosphere and appearance.”
- Some retailers turned to trading stamps to attract more customers, while other retailers promoted that they weren’t required. Central Market, owned by Golub Corp., claimed to be one of the first grocery chains in the country to issue S&H Green stamps, and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle introduced its own trading stamp program, Profit Sharing (P.S.) Blue Stamps. By 1962, trading stamps had peaked, with estimated sales of $671 million.
- Technology was growing in importance. Hy-Vee opened a data-processing department in 1954, while Compton, Calif.-based Ralphs, an early convert to computer technology, introduced an electronic store billing system at its new warehouse in Glendale, Calif. IBM ran an ad in PG touting its new 650 data-processing device, with “vast storage capacity and split-second computing” to speed order processing and enhance management reports.
Regional chains were offering new services and opening more stores during the ’50s.