Vision Chronicle

A Tulsa entrepreneur saw a need for a fix, forever changing the course of retailing. The Revolutionary Invention that No One Wanted to Use: Shopping Cart The


S ylvan Nathan Goldman was born in Oklahoma in 1889. The son of Latvian immi- grants, he grew up in a family of entrepreneurs who owned several grocery stores in Tulsa, and from whom he learned the business. When he was 15 years old he started work- ing in one of his uncle’s stores, but after the outbreak of World War I, he decided to enlist. When the war end- ed, he joined his brother and some of his family to buy several stores. Busi- ness was good, but, as the Oklahoma Historical Society tells us, it was in the 1930s that Sylvan really made it big. In 1934 he bought a grocery chain called Humpty-Dumpty that had just closed its doors, and turned it into one of the largest businesses in central Oklahoma. This entrepreneur enjoyed find - ing ways to improve the operation of his stores so as to make life easier for his shoppers. By doing this he thought he could sell more and make more profit. One day, while observing his customers shopping,

he noticed that many of them, tired of holding the products in their arms or baskets, were leaving the store. The customers were frustrat- ed by having to carry uncomfortable or half-filled bags, and worried they would break, which prevented them from being relaxed while shopping at the supermarkets. He understood that if he wanted to increase sales, he needed cus- tomers to shop calmly, quietly and comfortably. He didn’t want them to stop shopping just because of those bags and baskets. He had to help his customers to buy more, and so he decided to do something about it. His first idea was to station some of his employees in the aisles of the stores so they could help customers. As soon as they saw someone fill their basket, they would offer to take it to the checkout and give them an empty one. He tried it out for several weeks, but it didn’t work out because of the difficulty of the logistics, and because the clerks had to go from one side of the store to the other, which

made everything more complicated. According to the news website Jewish Press, in 1936, together with mechanic Fred Young, Goldman came up with an idea that would revolu- tionize the way we shop forever: Put- ting wheels on their baskets. To do this, he welded wheels to a chair, and on this he welded one of the baskets he had in his stores. The first supermarket shopping cart in the history of retail was born. After improving the prototype for several months, they began to manufacture several of these carts. On June 4, 1937 they put them in one of the supermarkets to see how they worked. Unfortunately, nobody liked them. The idea was hugely unpopular. Women found the contraption unaes-

68 Vision Magazine

December 2022

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