Walking into any supermarket these days, the first thing that we do naturally is to grab something to hold our groceries in right? You may think this has always been the norm, but the ubiquitous shopping cart is a relatively young invention.

It all started with Sylvan Goldman in Oklahoma, whose family emigrated from France and Latvia and worked in the retail food trade, which Goldman followed leaving school after only completing the eight grade. Him and his brother became very successful in the business, funding Oklahoma’s first Supermarket, a store concept they had been acquainted with in California.

Concerned with the hassles that traditional shopping baskets presented, and the fact that shoppers would only purchase until these were filled or got too heavy, he drew inspiration from a wooden folding chair design and developed the first shopping cart concept, introducing it in 1937 at his Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain.

One may think this was an instant hit, but the novelty didn’t seem very appealing to shoppers at first; men found it too effeminate, and women related it to baby carriages. Being the visionary he was, Goldman hired attractive models to push his invention around the store, as well as greeters to demonstrate its utility. Only then his folding-style shopping carts became popular and royalties from the patent turned him into a multimillionaire.

Later on many innovators tried improving Goldman’s design, but the one who ultimately contributed to the shopping cart that we use today was Orla Watson, who in 1947 redesigned them to have permanently attached baskets with a hinged back, allowing them to nest inside another. The shopping cart we all know – with one big basket – was first introduced in the 1950s. 

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