Piggly Wiggly was founded by Clarence Saunders in 1916 in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the first true self-service grocery store.
Piggly Wiggly Corporation secured the self-service format and issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of its stores. In this self-service format, customers entered the store through a turnstile and chose merchandise while walking through the store’s 4 aisles of products.
At the company’s peak in 1932, Piggly Wiggly operated 2,660 stores with annual sales of $180 million.
Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly in 1922 after he lost most of his assets in a bad stock deal. The company was then divided into strategic units and sold to regional grocery chains.
The now-smaller Piggly Wiggly Corporation continued to prosper as a franchiser for hundreds of independently-owned grocery stores that are licensed to do business under the Piggly Wiggly name.
Today Piggly Wiggly has more than 600 independently-owned Piggly Wiggly stores in 17 states.