Back in 1917, it was a novel idea for customers could walk through a
grocery store - or a grocereteria, as some were known - with a basket
and select items from the shelves. When Clarence Saunders opened his
first such store in Memphis Tennessee he called it Piggly Wiggly -
charming and quirky, but hardly relevant to the super efficient highly
organised popular shopping venues we know as supermarkets today.
This gem of marketing history is one of many from local author
Stephen Butt's recently published book which is a fascinating account of
the beginnings of many of Britain's best known retail outlets, which
were often the result of enterprise by one man and often launched from a
market stall or even a barrow.
Given Leicester's long standing reputation for successful business
enterprise it is hardly surprising that there are many local names in
this well researched volume by a well known local history specialist who
has a score or so of published books to his credit.
Local names such as Wilkinson, Corah, Walker, Adderley, Curry, Joseph
Johnson, Thomas Cook and George Davies are all here, with their early
efforts to establish businesses based on a variety of products from
socks to potato crisps, bicycles to holidays, while from elsewhere there
are Boots, Lyons, Cadburys and many more.
In an era when the decline of the High Street is being attributed to
the increase in on-line shopping, this is a reminder of how many retail
giants began from tiny beginnings and as little as £10, developed by
sheer hard work, self belief and an instinct for providing the public
with what they needed and wanted, this history is timely and thought
(Review by Joan Stephens, former Women's Editor and Features Writer,
Published in hardcover by Pen & Sword, August 2018
208 pages. £19.99