Influence Of The Shopping Cart

How the design of the shopping cart has had an important impact on the retail industry due to making shopping easier for consumers.

Shopping carts are such a ubiquitous presence in retail stores today that it is hard to imagine a time without them. And yet it wasn't until the year 1937 when the first shopping cart was introduced.

The shopping cart was the brainchild of Sylvan Goldman, the owner of a grocery food chain in Oklahoma. Goldman noticed that his customers struggled to carry their food in heavy hand-held baskets. He decided there must be an easier way for his customers to carry the food around in his markets. Observing a folding chair, Goldman decided to use that as the prototype for his new shopping cart.

With the aid of a mechanic, Fred Young, Goldman designed the first shopping cart based on the folding chair. Wheels were placed where the bottoms of the chair legs were. In place of the chair seat, Young and Goldman, stacked two metal baskets on top of each other. This cart could be stored by folding it up like a folding chair.

At first there was a bit of difficulty getting the public to accept shopping carts. Men thought using them was effeminate while younger women considered the use of the shopping carts to carry products around to be somewhat unstylish. Goldman solved this problem by hiring men and women models to use shopping carts in his stores. In addition, store greeters instructed customers in how to use the shopping carts. In short order, the shopping carts became incredibly popular because it made shopping much easier for customers. By 1940 the popularity of shopping carts had grown to such an extent that there was a 7-year waiting list in store orders for new shopping carts.

In 1947 Goldman made a big improvement in the design of his shopping cart. He replaced the folding cart with the "nest" cart so that the carts could be stored by simply nesting one cart into another by shoving the front of each cart into the folding back of the one in front of it. This is the same basic design that we have in the shopping carts of today.

The effectiveness of the shopping cart in retailing can be measured by comparing the retail stores that do use shopping carts with the stores that don't use them. Wal-Mart, which uses shopping carts, has shown a much greater increase in retail sales than Sears which doesn't use them. Studies by Britt Beemer of the American Research Group shows that customers with shopping carts will buy an average of 7.2 items compared with only 6.1 items purchased by customers without shopping carts. However, this does not tell the whole story since Beemer has found that the use of shopping carts will double the sales of hard to carry bulky items.

And while the cartless retailers such as Sears and J.C. Penny have suffered slow sales in recent years, the newer retailers that do use shopping carts, among them Target and Home Depot, have had booming sales. In large part this could be attributed to the ease of shopping made possible by Sylvan Goldman's invention---the shopping cart.

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