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You are here: Home » News » Oklahoma City inventor of shopping cart a symbol of local innovation

Oklahoma City inventor of shopping cart a symbol of local innovation

Views:214     Author:SCOTT MEACHAM     Publish Time: 2018-07-22      Origin:Site

innovation drives everything. Without innovation, we wouldn't have entrepreneurs, start up companies, or job and wealth creation. And we wouldn't have shopping carts.

Sylvan Goldman, the Oklahoma grocer who in 1937 invented the shopping cart, had a business problem that was keeping him from increasing what we today would call in-store sales. 

The women who came to Goldman's grocery stores (and in the thirties, they were mostly women) stopped shopping when their hand-carry baskets were full. I can just imagine Goldman sitting in his office after a long Saturday pondering the problem and thinking “how can I grow my business by making it easier for these women to shop?”

With a bigger basket, his customers could buy more things. Since the basket would be too heavy to lift, Goldman put it on wheels, using a folding chair for the frame. His “prototype” was kind of klunky, but Goldman figured it was good enough for a market test.

Like most entrepreneurs, Goldman discovered that his target market was hugely resistant to change. He studied his customers' objections. Women said the cart reminded them of pushing a baby carriage, and men resisted because pushing a cart didn't feel “manly enough.”

Confident that he was on to something, Goldman hired male and female “ringers” to shop for groceries, pushing carts. He also added a greeter to offer carts to shoppers as they came into the store. It worked. The carts caught on, Goldman patented his invention, and earned his way to becoming of Oklahoma's philanthropic multimillionaires.

Goldman also sought to grow his business by providing better service to his customers. And, like any outstanding entrepreneur, he had a solid exit strategy, ending up licensing his shopping cart patent to a company that improved the product to the telescoping baskets we use today.

Like Goldman, the entrepreneurs who founded these start ups each recognized a problem in an industry they understood very well. And like Goldman, they tackled those hurdles by inventing something new, the simpler the better.

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