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food stores

From the collection of the



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San Francisco, California

self-service food stores


CARL W. DIPMAN . . . Editor, The Progressive Grocer
ROBERT W. MUELLER Assnriatr Editor, The Progressive Grocer
RALPH E. HEAD . Associate Editor, The Progressive Grocer


The -National .Magazine of the Food Trade


Copy right 1946 by
fiutterict^ Company, Inc.
In United States and Great Britain

Printed in U.S.A.


This book was written in response to a persistent demand from food
merchants all over the country for up-to-date information on the applica-
tion of self-service to food retailing.

The great majority of food merchants are planning extensive improve-
ments for their stores. Many already operate self-service stores, but realize
that significant changes in self-service techniques have been made in the
past few years. This has been particularly true in the perishable lines of
meats, produce, and dairy products. New lines of products, not formerly
sold in food stores, have been successfully added on a self-service basis.
We believe that this book will bring food merchants the latest and most
practical information available on these subjects.

Other merchants operate counter-service and semi-self-service stores
and plan to convert to 100% self-service. They, too, will find sound guid-
ance on how to convert to self-service and thus enjoy greater efficiency
and profits.

In writing this book, the authors have also kept in mind those who are
planning to enter the retail food business for the first time. Every
chapter contains practical information that will be of direct value to
those without previous experience in retail food store operation.

The retail food business is constantly in a state of change, but because
of its gigantic proportions, many of these changes for the better do not
come to the attention of the individual merchant who must stay close
to his job. "Self-Service Food Stores" is really a research service of national
scope that gives you complete information on these important develop-


New and practical ideas that have successfully come through the
"proving ground" of food store experience are presented in this book.
The best of the new lines of products, improvements in store layouts
and equipment, speedier checkout systems, modern store fronts, pre-
packaging of perishables in fact, vital information on virtually every
phase of self-service retailing is brought to the reader in these pages.

In the preparation of this book the authors traveled tens of thousands
of miles and consulted successful food merchants from coast to coast.
The authors wish to take this opportunity to thank those many retailers
who gave their time in supplying data, records, photographs, and other
material used in these pages.

The authors also made frequent use of the literature and experience
of a number of agencies, business firms, equipment manufacturers, and
food store engineers, acknowledgment of which is hereby made. Among
them are:

American Coils Co.; Associated Grocers; The Beck-Nor System;
Blaisdell Pencil Co.; Boston Metal Products Co.; Chas. D. Briddell, Inc.;
R. T. Brown; Bruce Emerson; Brunner Mfg. Co.; E. O. Bulman Mfg.
Co., Inc.; Burroughs Adding Machine Co.; Butcher's Pal Co.; T. D.
Cannon; Carrier Corp.; Celanese Corp.; W. L. Chambers; Chrysler
Corp.; Lee Cinter; Clipper Cart Corp.; Colonial Art Co.; Cube Steak
Machine Co.; Curtis Mfg. Co.; DuPont de Nemours Co.; Enterprise
Mfg. Co.; The Fleming Co.; Folding Carrier Corp.; Ford Motor Co.;
Ed Friedrich Sales Corp.; Frigidaire; Fruit Dispatch; General Electric
Corp.; General Motors Corp.; Will George; John P. Gleason; Globe
Slicing Machine Co.; Richard E. Grey.

Also: C. V. Hill Co.; Hobart Mfg. Co.; Hussmann Refrigeration,
Inc.; International Business Machines Co.; International Grocers Al-
liance; International Harvester Co.; Jitney Jungle, Inc.; Kawneer Co.;
H. D. Lee Co.; Listo Pencil Co.; Maintain Store Engineering Service;
Master Mfg. Co.; McCaskey Register Co.; McCray Refrigerator Corp.;
Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co.; Modern Store Equipment Co.; Nashua
Package Sealing Co.; The National Cash Register Co.; National Ice
Public Relations, Inc.; Ohmer Register Co.; Owens-Illinois Glass Co.

Also: Package Machinery Co.; Pack-Rite Machines; Pasteuray Co.;
Pickwick Corp.; Piggly-Wiggly ; Pittsburgh Erie-Saw Corp.; Pittsburgh


Plate Glass Co.; Puffer-Hubbard Mfg. Co.; Red & White Corp.; Refrig-
eration Corp. of America; Rhinelander Paper Co.; Salem Engineering
Co.; Sanitary Scale Co.; Sayman Products Co.; Sherer-Gillett Co.; Super
Cold Corp.; O. A. Sutton Corp.; Sylvania Cellophane; Sylvania Electric
Co.; Tanglefoot, Inc.; Toledo Scale Co.; Tote Cart Co.; Tyler Fixture
Corp.; Samuel Underberg Co.; Universal Price Marking Systems; U. S.
Slicing Machine Co.; Viking Refrigerator Co.; Weber Showcase Co.;
Winston-Newell Co.; York Corp.; Zimmerman Price Cards.



1. Why the Trend to Self-Service i

2. Appointments of the Self-Service Store 10

3. Shelving That Invites Self-help 24

4. Choose the Gondola That Best Fits Your Store 32

5. Converting a Store to Self-Service 43

6. Handling Produce in Self-Service Stores 54

7. Handling Meat in Self-Service Stores 68

8. Sound Planning for Your Baby Food Department 78

9. How to Install A Profitable Drug Department 84

10. Alcoholic Beverage Departments 92

u. Housing Specialty Products 99

12. Counters and Check Out Systems in Self-Service Stores 132

13. Arranging Stores for Self-Service 148


Chapter Page

14. Handling Charge and Delivery Business in Self-Service Stores 201

15. Modern Store Fronts 210

16. Packaging Perishables for Self-Service 224

17. Salesmanship in Self-Service Stores 251

18. Better Lighting for More Profit 273

19. Kinks, Short-Cuts and Ideas 283

Index 295


Why the Trend
to Self-Service

A NUMBER of things have taken place over the years that are responsible
for the rapid trend to self-service food retailing.

Let us review them briefly so that we may better evaluate the impor-
tance of self-service food store operation and the necessity for it.

Not only one trend, but several different trends have taken place all
at the same time in food production and distribution. In some respects
these trends have been in conflict with one another. But in other respects
they have all led to the same results: sales through retail food stores
have increased tremendously; the margin at which these foods sold has
been constantly shrinking at the same time that wage rates for store
employes have been rising.

This situation almost suggests a paradox. But it is not a paradox if
we think through carefully and detect each of these trends and consider
their impact, and finally the effect that self-service merchandising is hav-
ing on food store selling.

In colonial days running a food store was a very simple affair. The
grocer sold only a limited line of merchandise, consisting largely of dry
groceries. There were very few perishable items and fresh goods sold
then. People lived largely on farms, and they were able to raise a large
part of the food they ate. They bought only a few staple groceries. The
family money expenditure for food was exceedingly small.

Most of the merchandise the colonial grocer sold was handled in bulk.
Generally the grocer required no help because his sales were so small


that he could do all the work himself. If occasionally he required help,
wage rates were very low. Yet his margins were high and averaged
between 30% and 40% of sales, and sometimes more. In those days
there was no need for a grocer to adopt labor-saving measures. He had
plenty of time to stand around and weigh out bits of tea, pepper, and
other groceries when customers bought them. The colonial grocer knew
nothing about intensive competition, of declining margins, or of "sales
per employe." But if he had stopped to figure his sales per employe, they
would have been exceedingly small only around $2,000 to $3,000 a
year. In the modern sense it might be said that his operating expense
was very high, but it did not matter much in those days.

But in due course of time many things started to happen that have all
had their effect on food store selling. Some of these things frequently
confused grocers. Grocers then as now often complained about the new

Slowly mass production made its way into food manufacturing. The
machine production line made its appearance in food factories. The
manufacturer was turning out an ever-increasing quantity of food prod-
ucts in much greater variety. Lines and brands began to multiply.
More packaged items that saved labor for the grocer came onto the
market. The machine age had come.

In a different way similar changes took place on the farm where so
much of our food is produced. Agriculture also became mechanized.
The unit of food production for each day of labor the farmer expended
increased rapidly.

'The cost of some food products slowly declined as production in fac-
tories and on farms increased in terms of hours or units of labor. This
enabled employers to pay higher wages but still keep the cost of prod-
ucts low enough so that consumers in turn could constantly increase
their expenditures for food. The economist calls this period of mecha-
nization the "industrial revolution."

But you may ask, "What does all this have to do with running a retail
food store?" Just this: In a sense we are going through a similar evo-
lution in food retailing. Just as the producer supplied more food in
greater variety at relatively lower cost, just so must the retailer sell more

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The Early American Store. Years ago most people lived on farms raised a large
part of their food supply. The grocer sold only a limited line of foods, consisting
largely of dry groceries. There were few packaged items in the grocer's stock.
His sales were small, so he had plenty of time to weigh out tea and coffee. The
grocer seldom needed help, but if so, wages were low. Yet the grocer's margins
were high, averaging from 30% to 40% of sales and sometimes more. Sales per
employe were only a few thousand dollars a year.

food in greater variety at relatively lower margin, at the same time that
he pays higher wage rates. Sounds impossible, doesn't it? But that is
exactly what has come about over the years, and there is still more to

We may not like this situation. But whether we like it or not, every
food merchant is confronted by it. A food merchant singlehanded can
do nothing about it. So he had better recognize this trend and make
whatever adjustments may be necessary to meet it. Like the manufac-
turer and farmer have done, the food retailer must mechanize his busi-
ness insofar as he can. He must strive to get a higher output (sales) per
hour of labor so that he can keep his margin low and possibly lower it,
yet at the same time pay high or higher wages if he is to stay in business
and make money for himself and his family.

And now we come to the main point: Within limits self-service food
store operation makes all this possible. In fact, many food retailers have
already made these adjustments.

Many of us who have spent years in food merchandising may not be
fully conscious of the changes that have already taken place. These
changes may have come so slowly that we may have failed to grasp

The Grocery Store of 1900. By 1900 consumer expenditures for foods had risen.
A number of packaged items had come onto the market, but the grocer still sold
many bulk items and only a few perishable foods. Many of the items stocked
were out of sight of the customers, and nearly all of them out of reach. Margins
were still fairly high and averaged from 25% to 30% of sales. Sales per employe
averaged from $4,000 to $5,000 a year. Help could usually be had at low wage
rates, so there was little need for efficiency in store operation.

their full significance. We have already referred to the fact that the
old colonial grocer who puttered through the day weighing out trifling
bits of coffee and tea on a cumbersome scale had sales per employe of
only $2,000 or $3,000 a year. Slowly as more packaged groceries came
onto the market (which saved store labor) and consumers bought more
foods in greater varieties, and merchants slowly improved their methods,
sales per employe kept climbing upward. This is simply another way
of saying that the operating expense was coming down. By 1900 sales
per employe in grocery stores had reached $4,000 to $5,000 a year. By
1925 they had reached between $8,000 and $10,000 per employe. But
by the end of the Second World War sales per employe in self-service
markets had climbed to an average over $20,000, and in a few outstand-
ing markets to over $30,000 a year. Of course some of this increase was
due to changes in food prices. But allowing for price variations, the
tonnage sales per employe have been constantly rising.

No single factor has contributed so much to the recent improvement
in food store efficiency as self-service operation. Self-service stores have
become so numerous and so successful that they now set the pattern of
food distribution. There is some question whether many old-fashioned
store operators can in the long run continue to remain prosperous unless

The Grocery Store of 1925. By 1925 a large number of packaged groceries had
come onto the market. The store still sold but a limited number of perishable
items. Grocers began to better display their merchandise. But waiting on a cus-
tomer entailed many steps, much trudging and lugging from one part of the
store to another. Competition forced margins down to 20% to 25%. Sales per
employe had increased to around $8,000 to $10,000 a year, but grocers had trou-
ble making money, for their operating expenses were too high.

they adopt the labor- and expense-saving features of self-service in the
period ahead.

Nor has the technique of self-service food store operation reached the
ultimate as yet. There is still much progress to be made. There are
still many things to be learned about self-service and its application to
different food products and departments. Self-service was first employed
in the sale of packaged dry groceries. Many food store operators thought
it would stop there. But it did not stop there. Self-service was extended
to dairy products and household items. A few years ago many food
store operators never dreamed that self-service operation could possibly
have any application to fresh goods like fruits, vegetables, and meats.
But now self-service is being extended into those areas, and we shall
see many far-reaching developments in the self-service merchandising
of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh meats, delicatessen, and frozen
foods in fact, to every item and department in the food store. There
may be limitations here and there, yet on the whole the application of
self-service will expand tremendously, and we already have complete
food markets in which every single item is sold self-service.

So it behooves every food merchant whatever the nature of his busi-
ness whether his store be large or small, whether in the country or the


city, whether cash-carry or charge-delivery to think through with an
open mind and adopt all of those features of self-service operation that
have an application to his business. Under most conditions food retail-
ers must adopt some, if not all, of the features of self-service store opera-
tion if they are to prosper in the competitive period ahead.

Let us enumerate some of the reasons why self-service will be so
important in the period ahead:

First of all, the vast majority of women prefer to do their food buy-
ing in self-service stores. Innumerable surveys have been made that in-
dicate that from 65% to 85% of all women prefer to do their shop-
ping for foods in self-service stores. It is true that in communities
where women have never seen self-service stores, there may be some
resistance when self-service is first suggested. But that resistance soon
passes when women once learn about the ease with which they can
shop in self-service stores and the many benefits they derive. Invariably
they always buy more. Merchants must also take into consideration the
large number of young housewives. The younger buyers associate
economy and value with self-service, and the vast majority of them pre-
fer to do their shopping in self-service stores, and in fact most of them
willfully avoid the old-fashioned counter-service stores. This vast army
of young housewives now setting up homes and raising families must
not be overlooked by food merchants.

Women prefer to buy their food in a pleasant harmonious store in
which the merchandise is well displayed. Preparing three meals a day,
day in day out, is a tedious task, and the fact that their meal planning
can be so easily done in self-service stores is what they like. Self-service
stores permit them to walk up and down the aisles, examine products,
labels, and values, and make their selections with ease and greater satis-
faction. In short, their shopping is greatly simplified and made more
delightful in properly arranged and well managed self-service stores.

Food merchants must constantly keep in mind that not only now but
in the period ahead, margins must be kept low and in some cases lowered.
Competition is forcing this pressure on margins just as it has over the
years. This means that many food merchants must set up their business
so that it can operate profitably at a lower expense. Inasmuch as labor
expense is such a big factor in total operating expense, food merchants
must make every effort to keep the labor cost down or to put it the

The Modern Food Market. Now the modern self-service food market handles a
complete line of foods with special emphasis on perishable goods. All items are
on display, and nearly all of them can be . handled by customers. Operating
expenses are low, because customers serve themselves to most items and thus
save work for store employes. Margins average from 15% to 20% of sales, and
in a few stores lower. Average sales per employe in self-service markets have
risen to over $20,000 a year and in some outstanding stores over $30,000.

other way round, food merchants must strive to realize larger sales per
employe, and this can usually be done best through self-service operation.
Margins in many of the perishable lines are headed for a sizable shake-
down, and unless food merchants employ as many of the features of
self-service as can be applied to their business, many of them will find it
impossible to lower their margins in line with competition.

Most merchants also feel the need for better and more capable help
in their stores. To provide better help they must pay higher wages.
Moreover, labor unions are becoming increasingly active in organizing
retail food store employes. This all adds up to higher wage rates for store



employes. But it does not follow that better help and higher wage rates
must result in a high operating expense in terms of per cent of sales.
Frequently by taking advantage of all of the labor saving that can be
effected through the application of self-service, well-managed stores are
able to pay higher wages for better help, but at the same time reduce
the operating expense percentage by increasing average sales per employe.
By eliminating unnecessary work, by saving steps, by eliminating lost
motion and confusion through the skillful application of self-service,
there is usually no difficulty in keeping wage expense well in line even
though higher wages are paid for better employes.

The trend to full-line, one-stop markets is still another factor that must
be given consideration. Full-line market stores now do over 60% of the
total food store volume as compared with 31% in 1929. The full-line,
one-stop market means that the food merchant must carry more lines,
that his stock must be more diversified. The proprietor must accord-
ingly spread his activity over more lines and departments. Under those
conditions he can do an effective job of management and supervision
only by simplifying his operation. Self-service permits that simplification.
Releasing the time formerly taken up by drudgery enables the proprietor
to do a better job of management, sales promotion, and supervision.

Whatever opinion merchants may now hold about the limitations of
self-service store operation, they must bear in mind that tremendous
technical advancements in packaging are ahead. There will be advance-
ment in technique, materials, and machines available for the packaging
of perishable foods in stores themselves. Wholesalers will also do more
packaging of foods for self-service retail sales. Producers, particularly
those supplying perishable goods, will package more of their products
so that they can be sold self-service in food stores. A merchant must not
permit present limitations to obscure his view of the future of self-service
but must instead conclude that tremendous advancements are in the
making. After these improvements make their appearance, it is likely
that the retail margin on some lines will decline. Only by the adoption
of self-service principles insofar as they apply can many merchants meet
the competition that lies ahead.

Shorter hours for both store operation and store employes also appear
to be ahead. This makes it all the more necessary that each hour that the
store is open or an employe is on the job be used effectively. By the


simplification of operation, by getting consumers to do some of the work
now done by employes, can a merchant make the greatest use of the
fewer hours available to the store and employes.

On the other hand, there are still a few food merchants who conclude
that because their business is partially or largely charge and delivery,
self-service has no application. This misconception has been pretty well
removed by now. It has been proved beyond a doubt that charge-and-
delivery business can be carried on in a store arranged for self-service
as well as in any other store, and usually better. Assembling orders for
delivery or handling charge customers can usually be done more efficient-
ly in a store with a self-service arrangement than in the old counter-
service store. Moreover, a self-service arrangement in a service store
generally attracts more cash-carry business, business that now goes else-
where. Many service food store operators need this additional cash-
carry volume if they are to prosper in the future.

Nor need a store lose character or personality simply because it is self-
service. A properly managed self-service store can be just as personal as
any other kind of a store. In this respect medium-sized and small self-
service markets have an advantage over the large stores.

Throughout this discussion we have placed considerable emphasis on
margins. But it must not be concluded that if through self-service oper-
ation the margin is reduced, the net profit must decline accordingly. Net
profit does not need to come down with the margin if a store is well
managed. There are many examples throughout the country of when
counter-service stores converted to self-service operation, lower margins
and higher net profit resulted. Reducing an over-all store margin by
4% or 5% or more need not interfere with profit. In fact it may help
the profit, for higher sales generally follow.

Self-service food store operation is no longer on trial. It is rapidly be-
coming the dominant form of food retailing. Self-service is being ex-
tended to all food departments. It has been amply demonstrated that
self-service has its application to most any kind of a store, large or small,
city or country, service or cash-carry.

For the present self-service operation may have some limitations in
certain departments or under certain conditions. But these limitations
will slowly be alleviated and in many cases completely eliminated.


Appointments of
the Self-Service Store

IN THE previous chapter we said that self-service food stores are surging
ahead because:

1. Consumers in increasing numbers not only accept, but demand
self-service stores.

2. Dealers are turning to self-service to hold, and in many cases, reduce

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Online LibraryCarl William DipmanSelf-service food stores → online text (page 1 of 15)