September 3, 1956
icans in the 1950s associated the Soviet Union with the Cold War, supermarket operators and SN were looking at the communist country from a different perspective.
SN's Sept. 3, 1956, cover story focused on the potential of the self-service store format to alleviate problems of overcrowding in Soviet stores, said U.S. trade officials at the time. The populations of Soviet cities were greatly swollen by war during that era and, as a consequence, the few stores located in urban areas were not equipped to deal with the increased traffic.
The article focused on a detailed explanation of the Soviet store system, which included three formats: a state-controlled gastronome or general food store; state-controlled, specialized stores like butcher shops and bakeries; and free markets where farmers from collectives could go to sell their surpluses.
As readers expected, the Soviet stores bore little resemblance to the supermarkets here in the United States. But rarely did American interest in the Soviet Union extend further than the fear generated by Cold War activities. Retailers, often reflective of political movements and public sentiment, were in this case ahead of the general public in their ability to look beyond the prevailing view of the Soviet Union.