Up to this time, customers at the typical grocery would have their orders filled by clerks. All merchandise was not individually packaged and priced and was stocked in shelves behind counters. The clerk filling a customer's order would have to measure out various quantities of foods and sack them up. Obviously, this was a very labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

At the self-service Piggly Wiggly, customers entered through a turnstile, grabbed a basket and walked through aisles of pre-packaged and price-marked merchandise. Items would be paid for at a checkout stand located near the store's exit. Clarence Saunders patented his self-service grocery format in 1917. Most of his competitors had converted to this store model by the late 1930s.