By: Dassy Levy
Sylvan Goldman, the owner of a supermarket chain in Oklahoma, was in search of a solution. Every day he’d watch his customers struggle with overloaded, overweight shopping baskets. It turned shopping into a backbreaking task, and it made customers turn to the checkout line before they even finished collecting the items on their list. His inspiration was a folding chair. He envisioned it with wheels, a handle and one basket on the seat and another beneath it. Goldman enlisted the help of a mechanic to do just that, and the first shopping cart was born in 1937. It included a foldable frame and a pair of wire baskets that each customer would place on it. You’d think the customers would jump for this practical idea, but it wasn’t so simple. Any self-respecting gentleman wouldn’t be caught pushing a cart around. It was way too unmanly, and what made anyone think a guy wasn’t capable of carrying a few groceries by hand? Women looked at the cart as some kind of baby buggy and did not want to be seen wheeling the unstylish device either. The elderly didn’t need too much convincing, which made the other two groups stand even farther away from the newest invention. It was only after Goldman hired young men and women to wheel them around the store, pretending to be shopping, that the idea sank in, and from there the shopping cart’s popularity rose.
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By 1940, the grocery stores were being redesigned for the humble shopping carts. Aisles got wider and checkout counters larger. People were buying more food now!
Many inventors and innovators got to work perfecting this amazing invention. In 1947, baskets were now permanently attached to the cart and were designed in a way that one can be nested in another, as the space a whole row took up was a huge factor for stores.
In the 1950s, the carts started resembling the ones we use today, with one big basket to accommodate lots of groceries.
From there, little conveniences were added to the existing designs: toddler seats, infant seats, carts with two seats, carts for those with disabilities and shallower wagons for when less merchandise is needed.
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