Clarence Saunders – Business Bio Summary

Image of a projector displaying images related to Clarence SaundersClarence Saunders

Grocery shopping would not be as orderly and efficient as it is today if not for Clarence Saunders.

Saunders is the man behind the chain of Piggly Wiggly stores and he is ultimately responsible for influencing grocery formats as we know it presently.

In fact, his innovative ideas are still being used by modern groceries up to now.

Saunders innovations stemmed from the fact that he believes grocery shopping should be convenient for both the grocers and the shoppers.

Clarence Saunders – A Grocer Who Takes Care of His Shoppers

At 14, Clarence Saunders quit school to work as a clerk in a general store or a grocery as it is called today. Saunders worked many different jobs related to selling and groceries, and in 1916, he felt confident enough to open his own grocery store – the Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis Tennessee.

As opposed to the normal groceries at that time, the Piggly Wiggly store broke away from the norm and sold items on a cash per purchase basis and not on credit. To make the shopping experience better for the shoppers, Saunders integrated baskets for shopping.

He also pioneered the concept of displaying different products per aisle to ensure the shopper has a lot of choices for purchase. Checkouts were also located conveniently at the front of the grocery near the entrance and exit points.

Following the success of the Piggly Wiggly store, Saunders had the concept of self service patented. Unfortunately, no matter how successful the Piggly Wiggly store was, Saunders declared bankruptcy in the early 1920s due to a disagreement with the New York Stock Exchange.

After that incident, Saunders regained his spirit and invented several techniques and formats for another type of grocery. This time the innovation was more aggressive and everything in the store was fully automated.

The first one being the Keedoozle, which failed due to maintenance difficulties and the Foodelectric, which Saunders, unfortunately, didn’t get to realize because of his untimely death in 1953.

Clarence Saunders is a man whose ideas were all ahead of the era he lived in. Thanks to his efforts to take care of shoppers, we are reaping the benefits of convenient shopping that Saunders designed and lived by.

The Clarence Saunders Quick Bio

Name: Clarence Saunders

Birthdate: August 9, 1881

Birthplace: Virginia

Company: Piggly Wiggly Store

Industry: Retail

Key success traits:  eccentric genius, a fighter, and an innovator


Clarence Saunders is also the man behind the turnstile. Saunders also has a Pink marble mansion in Memphis nicknamed the Pink Palace that he unfortunately had to sell to the city because of his bankruptcy. Presently, it functions as a museum of the Piggly Wiggly store.