The Shopping Cart

May 4, 2016

shopping cartJune 4th 1937: Late at the office one evening, Sylvan N. Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, noticed two folding chairs in the room and came up with the idea for the shopping cart.He noticed that his customers often carried their groceries in heavy, hand-held baskets. Their purchases were limited to what would fit in the basket and how much they could carry. Goldman naturally wanted his customers to visit more frequently and to buy more groceries. He decided there had to be an easier way to carry food and other purchases.

With the help of an employee, Fred Young, Goldman devised a prototype shopping cart, based on the folding chair: wheels at the bottom of the chair legs and two metal baskets on top of each other in place of the chair seat. After a few months, the cart was ready.

On June 4, 1937 Goldman placed an advertisement in the Oklahoma City papers, showing a woman exhausted by the weight of her shopping basket. “It’s new – It’s sensational. No more baskets to carry,” the ad said, referring to the new shopping cart.

Goldman hired models of both sexes and different ages to push things around in his store, pretending to be shopping. It worked. Soon the carts in Goldman’s stores were a success. By 1940, the shopping cart’s popularity had grown so much that buyers faced a seven-year waiting list.

In 1946, came the “2.0” version of the shopping cart. Orla E. Watson, from Kansas City, had noticed the huge space taken by shopping carts in front of stores. He wanted to replace the vertically-stacked baskets with horizontally-telescoped frames, so carts could be fitted into one another for compact storage.

By September, he had designed prototypes and completed a patent application. But Goldman contested and filed an application for a similar patent. In 1949, Goldman and Watson agreed to compromise: Goldman relinquished his patent rights and granted them to Watson.

Goldman continued to modify his original design. The baskets grew bigger as stores realized that customers purchased more when cart size increased.