Apr 25, 2023 • 2 min

The Evolution of the Shopping Cart

Shopping carts have become a ubiquitous sight in supermarkets and grocery stores around the world. They provide a convenient way for shoppers to collect and transport their purchases, but have you ever wondered how these carts have evolved over time?

The First Shopping Cart

The first shopping cart was invented by Sylvan Goldman, a grocery store owner in Oklahoma, in 1937. The original design was a metal frame with two wire baskets mounted on wheels.

One of the first shopping carts - two baskets on a simple metal frame
One of the first shopping carts - two baskets on a simple metal frame - Image: https://americanhistory.si.edu/object-project/refrigerators/cart

Goldman was inspired by a folding chair he saw at a department store and wanted to create a way for shoppers to carry more items without having to make multiple trips.
Despite its potential, the shopping cart did not take off immediately. Shoppers were initially resistant to the idea, as they preferred to carry their purchases in baskets or on their arms.
It wasn't until the 1950s that shopping carts became popular, as larger supermarkets began to open and consumers needed a more efficient way to transport their groceries.

The '60s
In the 1960s, shopping carts were redesigned to feature a child seat and a larger basket. This innovation made it easier for parents to shop with their children, and increased the amount of groceries that could be carried in a single trip.

Vintage shopping cart with child seat
Vintage shopping cart with child seat - Image: https://clickamericana.com/topics/culture-and-lifestyle/scenes-from-grocery-stores-supermarkets-of-yesteryear

The '70s
The 1970s saw the introduction of plastic shopping carts, which were more durable and easier to clean than their metal counterparts. Plastic carts were also less likely to rust and could be made in a variety of colors to match a store's branding.

The '80s
In the 1980s, shopping carts were further improved with the addition of swiveling wheels and ergonomic handles. These features made it easier for shoppers to navigate through crowded stores and reduced strain on their hands and arms.

2017 & Beyond
80 years later, shopping carts continue to evolve. One of the first smart shopping carts appeared in 2017. Some supermarkets have introduced these smart versions of carts that can scan items on the go, allowing shoppers to skip the checkout line and save the hassle of unloading & rebagging all items. Other stores have experimented with mini-carts that are easier to maneuver in smaller aisles.

Smart shopping carts like the EASY Shopper Light show how much the shopping cart has advanced since its first version from 1937
Smart shopping carts like the EASY Shopper Light show how much the shopping cart has advanced since its first version from 1937 - Image: https://www.lebensmittelzeitung.net/tech-logistik/nachrichten/self-scanning-edeka-verbessert-easy-shopper-164757

Despite these innovations, the basic design of the shopping cart has remained largely unchanged for over 80 years. This is a testament to its effectiveness and the fact that it continues to meet the needs of shoppers around the world.

In conclusion, the shopping cart has come a long way since its inception in 1937. From a simple metal frame with wire baskets to the sophisticated designs of today, the shopping cart has proven to be an indispensable tool for shoppers everywhere. Its continued evolution will undoubtedly keep pace with the changing needs of consumers, ensuring that this humble invention remains a staple of the shopping experience for generations to come.

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