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Posts Tagged ‘retailing

“Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.”*…

This story starts with a Swedish business school graduate studying in the U.S. in the early 1920s and seeing something unfamiliar to him: A self-serve grocery store.

We take advantage of it these days, but there was a time when grocery stores required employees to directly package goods for consumers. In the U.S., goods were sold “over the counter” before the early 1920s, when a truly innovative concept, self-service shopping, came about thanks to a grocery store that’s still around today, Piggly Wiggly [see here]. As noted in a trade publication of the era, Piggly Wiggly was incredibly profitable right off the bat…

But while the concept quickly gained popularity with consumers in the U.S., it had yet to cross American borders in 1920 or so. Which is where Ruben Rausing comes into play. Rausing, then a graduate student at Columbia University who had spent time working in the printing industry, saw a self-service grocery store, and it made him realize something: packaging was about to become very important…

After Rausing finished his education and returned to Sweden, he spent nearly a decade at the printing company Sveriges Litografiska Tryckerier (SLT) before leveraging his contacts and knowledge to create a packaging company, Åkerlund & Rausing, with business partner Erik Åkerlund.

Starting with the packaging of dry goods such as sugar and salt, the company began to focus on liquids around the time of World War II, with paperboard the primary tool.

Prior to the refrigerator getting a global footprint, milk was notoriously difficult to store safely. To give you an idea, when Rausing first came to the U.S., the way that milk was often delivered in his native Sweden involved the use of metal containers that were owned by consumers who cleaned the containers themselves, then went to local stores to get them refilled. This was not a perfect system, and often led the milk to spoil. (Refrigeration was not really common even in developed countries until the 1930s or even the 1940s.)

Meanwhile, the dairy industry in the U.S. had landed on reusable glass bottles that manufacturers cleaned themselves, a more sanitary process than consumer-cleaned metal jugs, but one that relied on a delivery method that had allowed dairies to get monopolies over local markets. Unfortunately for them, paperboard had simply proven too efficient a delivery mechanism to ignore.

“Dairies preferred bottles because they effectively created a monopoly where they established their collection system,” writer Gordon L. Robertson wrote for Food Technology magazine in 2002. “Cartons extended the range beyond the 20–30 miles over which a dairy could operate effectively with bottles; enterprising companies saw the potential and moved to cartons.”

Much as with every other major packaging trend that happened in the first half of the 20th century, Europe got there second. But in the process, they may have built the most innovative model for packaging.

Rausing’s contribution was called the Tetra-Pak, and the corporate line was that he was inspired to have the idea after he saw his wife making sausages. While he may have had the spark of inspiration, it was another inventor, Åkerlund & Rausing employee Erik Wallenberg, who followed the idea through. Essentially, the packaging style was stored with the help of geometry. With the help of a couple of quick turns, the container could close with only three seals, minimizing costs of manufacturing with only a couple of twists. The only issue was that the final shape was non-standard—it was a tetrahedron, essentially a four-sided triangle.

This design nonetheless had multiple advantages, including (with the right packaging materials) the ability to store dairy in a sanitary way over longer periods. With the right packing materials, milk didn’t even need to be chilled in a Tetra-Pak. 

Soon, Rausing created an Åkerlund & Rausing subsidiary that was named for the innovative packaging method, Tetra-Pak. And that company, today, is the largest packaging company in the world—and it did so without the benefit of its original form of packaging winning over the U.S. market.

In 1961, the company produced its first aseptic packaging, using a mixture of packaging (plastic, paper, and metal), manufacturing process (a modified form of the tubular packaging that the Tetra-Pak used), and chemical treatment (hydrogen peroxide, to be specific) to allow for a shelf-stable form of packaging that did not need refrigeration and could extend the shelf life of products without the use of preservatives. This was an important innovation whose benefits linger today.

The second innovation came in the form of design, with the Tetra Brik taking many of the lessons learned from the original Tetra-Pak design and applying them to a more rectangular package, allowing for more standardized shipping.

The combination of sanitized packaging and a normalized design seemed like a surefire starting point for American success. But there was a problem—Americans were already used to their cartons that required refrigeration, and so were the companies that sold the milk.

“The major drawback to adoption by American companies is the tremendous cost of changing over from present systems of pasteurization and packaging,” one 1968 article explained of the Tetra Brik. “Since virtually every American family has a refrigerator, the need is not so great as in other areas.”

However, there was still a big world out there for the Tetra Brik, and its shelf-stable nature meant that areas where refrigeration wasn’t quite as quick to appear could get the advantages of having milk distributed in shelf-stable ways.

Americans would find their way to this packaging style through another path: the juice box…

The estimable Ernie Smith (@ShortFormErnie) with the fascinating story of a lunch box staple, the juice box: “Tangential Juice Innovation.”

* Wallace Stevens

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As we poke in the straw, we might send shelf-stable birthday greetings to Reuben’s son, Hans Anders Rausing; he was born on this date in 1926. After many years in the family business, he sold his share of Tetra-Pak to his brother, Gad, moved to U.K., and became a philantropist. His daughter Lisbet, a historian of science at Kings College, London, co-founded (with her husband, UCLA history professor Peter Baldwin) one the the U.K.’s largest and most foresightful foundations, Arcadia.

source

“You just don’t get any perspective if you are looking at a map on a small screen… and the batteries on handheld devices run out, especially in very cold environments”*…

 

Stanford Map

 

Home to the world’s largest collection of maps, travel books and globes, its customers include governments and armed forces from around the world… Based in Covent Garden, in the centre of London, family-owned Stanfords is a 166-year-old British institution. Opening its doors in 1853, it harks back to the great expeditions of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Its famous customers from that time included David Livingstone, who explored much of Africa, and Ernest Shackleton, who led expeditions to Antarctica. Even fictional character Sherlock Holmes was a fan.

Vivien Godfrey, 58, has been chief executive and chairman of Stanfords since March 2018, but her connection to the business has been a lifelong one. Her family have been majority owners since 1946, and she is now the third generation to lead the company. She describes Stanfords as having “been part of my entire life”.

However, when she graduated from Oxford University with a degree in geography in 1983, her father wouldn’t let her join the family firm…

Stanford's 2

The story of one of London’s treasures, and the woman who leads it: “The map store boss who took the long route.”

[TotH to friend KE]

* Vivien Godfrey, on the benefits of printed maps

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As we carefully re-fold, we might spare a thought for a cartographer of a different sort, James Grover Thurber; he died on this date in 1961.  A cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author, and all-round wit, he was probably best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker magazine (like “The Catbird Seat” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”)– though his Broadway comedy The Male Animal (written in collaboration with his college friend Elliott Nugent), was later adapted into a film starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland.

Q. No one has been able to tell us what kind of dog we have. I am enclosing a sketch of one of his two postures. He only has two. The other one is the same as this except he faces in the opposite direction. – Mrs EUGENIA BLACK

A. I think that what you have is a cast-iron lawn dog. The expressionless eye and the rigid pose are characteristic of metal lawn animals. And that certainly is a cast-iron ear. You could, however, remove all doubt by means of a simple test with a hammer and a cold chisel, or an acetylene torch. If the animal chips, or melts, my diagnosis is correct.

The Thurber Carnival (1945)

220px-James_Thurber_NYWTS source

 

Written by LW

November 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch”*…

 

The online site for the National Museum of American History is chock full of cool historical stuff, from advertising to art to communications to just about anything having to do with the history of our great nation. When I stumbled on to a selection of lunch boxes, I was impressed with their wide-ranging collection, from the plain everyday workingman’s box (think construction worker, 1940s) to the fun and highly decorated tin boxes of mid-century America (think Gene Autry)…

Sample the collection at “A Visual History of Lunchboxes“; then dive in.

* Orson Welles

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As we hope for Fritos, we might recall that it was on this date in 1916 that Clarence Saunders, a Tennessee grocer, opened the first modern supermarket, pioneering the retail sales model of self service– he had received U.S. Patent #1,242,872 for a “Self Serving Store”– and thus had a massive influence on the development of modern retailing.  His Memphis store grew into the Piggly Wiggly chain, which is still in operation.

The first Piggly Wiggly store

source

 

Written by LW

October 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Amazement awaits us at every corner”*…

 

Zoe Leonard (American, Born 1961) Analogue Detail. 1998-2007 Four Chromogenic Color Prints, Each 11 X 11″ (27.9 X 27.9 Cm) Analogue Was Made Possible Through The Artist’s Residency Program At The Wexner Center For The Arts At The Ohio State University. Acquired Through The Generosity Of The Contemporary Arts Council Of The Museum Of Modern Art, The Fund For The Twenty-First Century, The Modern Women’s Fund, And Carol Appel

Starting in the 1990s, artist Zoe Leonard began photographing the shops in New York City’s Lower East Side. As the New York Times reported [last week], small neighborhood stores like local bodegas are declining in the city as rents steadily rise and chain stores strong-arm their way in.

Leonard witnessed the start of the decline as mom-and-pop shops — with their hand-lettered signs and strange window displays — started vanishing throughout the decade. She photographed them with something equally obsolete: celluloid film. The artist captured the changing landscape with a vintage 1940’s Rolleiflex camera, using gelatin silver, chromogenic, and dye-transfer printing processes. She didn’t crop the black frame of the negative from the final image, either.

”The embrace of photography as an analog medium is reinforced in the work’s recurrent references to Kodak, photo studios, and graffiti,” the Museum of Modern Art writes. Leonard’s photos from the decade are currently on display at MoMA in the exhibition Zoe Leonard: Analogue, presenting 412 images together in a grid-like installation. “Analogue is a testament to the loss of both locally owned shops and straight photography,” MoMA’s press release states. The show is on display through August 30…

Read and see more (and larger, zoomable) versions of the images at “Remembering the Lost Mom-and-Pop Shops of New York City’s Lower East Side in the ’90s.”

*  James Broughton

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As we ruminate on retailing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1992 that the Mall of America opened in Bloomington, Minnesota, becoming the largest shopping mall both in total area and in total store vendors in the U.S.  It receives over 40 million visitors annually (the most of any mall in the world), and generates nearly $2 Billion in economic impact.  The Mall has 7,900,000 square feet of space and 11,000 employees (13,000 in Holiday season).  Its 12,000+ parking spaces  are relatively few given the store and employee count; but as the Mall is on Minneapolis’ light rail system, and many shoppers arrive by shuttle from nearby hotels or the airport, they suffice.

 source

Written by LW

August 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you’re lucky, people will get the message”*…

 

From the early 80s to today, a graphic look at “The History of Icons.”

Special bonus:  browse through the sketchbook of pioneer Susan Kare.

* “If you look at that blank canvas and say, ‘Now I’m going to create a masterpiece’ — that’s just foolhardy. You just have to make the best painting you can, and if you’re lucky, people will get the message.”  – Susan Kare

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As we point and click, we might send mercantile birthday greetings to John Vansant Wanamaker; he was born on this date in 1838.  A gifted merchant who helped define the modern consumer era, Wanamaker’s flagship store in Philadelphia– an enterprise that helped define the “department store”– was designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, featured a pipe organ, an art gallery and a 2,500-pound bronze eagle that became a favored meeting place for Philadelphians.

Wanamaker was a committed innovator:  he was the first to use electric arc lighting in a retail setting (in 1878); and starting in 1910, sensing its potential as an advertising medium, he used his stores as a base for experimentation with radio– starting a radio broadcast station in the store in 1922 to initiate radio receiver sales.

Wanamaker served as Postmaster General in the late 19th century, introducing the first commemorative stamp and laying the groundwork for Rural Free Delivery.  And in the early 20th century, he helped establish Mother’s Day as an observance.

An aggressive advertiser and promoter, Wanamaker is credited with the famous observation, “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

 source

 

Written by LW

July 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

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