Large retail store operated on a self-service basis, selling groceries, produce, meat, bakery and dairy products, and sometimes nonfood goods. Supermarkets were first established in the U.S. during the 1930s as no-frills retail stores offering low prices. In the 1940s and '50s they became the major food marketing channel in the U.S.; the 1950s also saw them spread through much of Europe. Their growth is part of a trend in developed countries toward reducing cost and simplifying marketing. In the 1960s supermarkets began appearing in developing countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, where they appealed to individuals who had the necessary buying power and food storage facilities.
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A grocery store is a store established primarily for the retailing of food. A grocer, the owner of a grocery store, stocks different kinds of foods from assorted places and cultures, and sells them to customers. Large grocery stores that stock products other than food, such as clothing or household items, are called supermarkets. Small grocery stores that mainly sell fruits and vegetables are known as produce markets (U.S) or greengrocers (Britain), and small grocery stores that predominantly sell snack foods and sandwiches are known as convenience stores or delicatessens.
U.S. grocery stores are descended from trading posts, which sold not only food but clothing, household items, tools, furniture, and other miscellaneous merchandise. These trading posts evolved into larger retail businesses known as general stores. These facilities generally dealt only in "dry" goods such as flour, dry beans, baking soda, and canned foods. Perishable foods were instead obtained from specialty markets: Fresh meat was obtained from a butcher, milk from a local dairy, eggs and vegetables were either produced by families themselves, bartered for with neighbors, or purchased at a farmers' market or a local greengrocer.
Many rural areas still contain general stores that sell goods ranging from cigars to imported napkins. Traditionally, general stores have offered credit to their customers, a system of payment that works on trust rather than modern credit cards. This allowed farm families to buy staples until their harvest could be sold.
The first self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, was opened in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee by Clarence Saunders, an inventor and entrepreneur. Prior to this innovation, customers gave orders to clerks to fill. Saunder's invention allowed a much smaller number of clerks to service the customers, proving successful (according to a 1929 Time magazine) "partly because of its novelty, partly because neat packages and large advertising appropriations have made retail grocery selling almost an automatic procedure."
When a small grocery store is in competition with large supermarkets, the grocery store often must create a niche market by selling unique, premium quality, or ethnic foods that are not easily found in supermarkets. A small grocery store may also compete by locating in a mixed commercial-residential area close to, and convenient for, its customers.
The USDA estimates that 27% of food is lost annually.
Many teenagers find their first employment in grocery stores.