80s grocery stores: See vintage supermarkets, plus find out how retro tech paved the way for modern retail

Vintage 80s grocery stores at Click Americana

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The 1980s weren’t just about neon legwarmers and synth-heavy music — among other things, it was a decade that saw significant changes in the supermarket landscape.

Notably, the 1980s marked the 50th anniversary of the modern supermarket concept, which got its start during the Great Depression in the 1930s. By this time, supermarkets were well on their way to becoming the epicenters of community and convenience that they are today.

80s grocery stores: The supermarket industry's 50th anniversary (1980)

80s supermarket tech: Grocery scanners

To celebrate half a century, 80s grocery stores embraced technology and consumer demands in a big way. Checkout lanes saw the widespread adoption of barcode scanners, streamlining the shopping experience.

No more awkward pauses while the cashier punched in prices or consulted the numbers inside thick binders for codes. Instead, a simple beep heralded the (mostly) smooth operation of commerce. (Of course, things still got plenty awkward if you happened to pick the one item without a bar code…)

Early supermarket bar code scanner technology (1980)

80s superstores & other innovations

The ’80s saw the advent of the superstore, taking the supermarket concept to the next level by offering more than just groceries. Places like Walmart Supercenters and Meijer stores made it possible to buy a toaster, a fishing rod, and a week’s worth of groceries under one roof. It was one-stop shopping on steroids.

Stop and Shop selling more than jusst groceries in 1986
Superstores: Stop and Shop selling more than just groceries in 1986

In addition to changes in merchandise and technology, the layout of stores evolved. More emphasis was placed on creating eye-catching displays and endcaps. Attractive produce sections became the norm, usually positioned at the front of the store. The idea was to entice shoppers with fresh fruits and veggies before they hit the aisles of canned and packaged goods.

More and more stores also had different departments — almost like mini-markets within the store. While the meat department and produce aisle had long been seen in supermarkets, extensive deli selections, full-service bakeries, drugstores, florists, and even video rentals started to become available for one-stop-shopping. 

80s grocery stores: deli section and video rentals
80s grocery stores: deli section and video rentals

80s grocery store brands

It was also a time when branding began to take center stage. Store chains like Safeway and Kroger elevated their game with improved in-house generic food brands, rivaling the quality of name brands but at lower prices.

Vintage Safeway Lucerne brand dairy products (1987)

Generic, no-name products also gained popularity, especially for cost-conscious shoppers hit by recession in the early part of the decade. These were often covered with plain yellow or white labels that had no photos or graphic design other than some plain text to identify the contents, such as these “no frills” products offered at Eagle stores:

YouTube video

80s grocery stores continuing traditions

Of course, the ’80s also clung to some longstanding traditions. The practice of trading S&H Green Stamps for household items, for instance, had been around for decades by that point. Yet, the trend continued to have a faithful following, with shoppers diligently licking and sticking their green stamps into booklets to redeem for gadgets and goodies. This loyalty program of sorts was a relic that found its place even amidst the burgeoning tech and brand changes of the decade.

As the decade wrapped up, supermarkets were on the cusp of even greater changes. While 1980s stores might seem somewhat quaint now to contemporary shoppers accustomed to online ordering and curbside pickup, they laid the groundwork for the retail revolution that would follow in the 1990s and beyond.

In hindsight, the 1980s were a transformative period for grocery stores, combining elements of technology, marketing, and convenience to create a shopping experience that set the stage for decades to come.

The era is a key chapter in the ongoing story of how supermarkets have adapted to meet the changing needs and wants of the consumer, so here, take a look back at some memorable 80s grocery stores and supermarkets! We also have vintage newspaper ads, so you can see how expensive food and other groceries were back in the eighties.

MORE: Grocery stores of the 50s | Retro 60 grocers | 1970s supermarkets

Loading groceries into a car in 1980

Loading groceries into a car in 1980


Vintage produce at an 80s Marsh Supermarket

Vintage produce at an 80s Marsh Supermarket


80s grocery store freezers and refrigerated foods

80s grocery store freezers and refrigerated foods


Buying groceries at Wal-Mart, 80s-style

Buying groceries at Wal-Mart, 80s-style


Safeway store nutrition section (1980)

Safeway store nutrition section (1980)

DON’T MISS! Check out 100 vintage 1970s supermarkets & retro grocery stores


Pepsi products in the supermarket aisle back in the day (1980)

Pepsi products in the supermarket aisle back in the day (1980)

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Grocery store worker stocking Chips Ahoy cookies (1980)

Grocery store worker stocking Chips Ahoy cookies (1980)


People lining up at a new Safeway store in Texas (1980)

People lining up at a new Safeway store in Texas (1980)


Vintage Publix newspaper ad with 1981 prices

Vintage Publix stores newspaper ad with prices from 1981


Vintage 80s Wal-Mart checkout lines (1981)

Vintage 80s Wal-Mart checkout lines (1981)


People with a cart full of Nabisco products in 1981

People with a cart full of Nabisco products in 1981

DON’T MISS! Inside vintage 1950s grocery stores & old-fashioned supermarkets


Deodorant and body sprays at an 80s grocery store (1982)

Deodorant and body sprays at an 80s grocery store (1982)


Vintage Kroger Pasta Shop in-store (1982)

Vintage Kroger Pasta Shop in-store (1982)

VIDEO: 1989 Kroger commercial

YouTube video


Vintage 80s Martin’s grocery store checkouts

Vintage 80s Martin's grocery store checkouts


Family at the supermarket with Minute Maid orange juice and Five Alive juice cartons (1983)

Woman at supermarket with Minute Maid orange juice and Five Alive juice cartons (1983)

ALSO SEE
See inside the first Piggly Wiggly grocery store that opened way back in 1916

Detroit Farmer Jack’s grocery store food sale prices (1983)

How much did food cost in the 80s? Here’s a look at prices from one grocery store in Michigan, showing the prices for everything from steaks to spare ribs, and ice cream to frozen waffles

Detroit Farmer Jack's grocery store food sale prices (1983)


Old Marsh Supermarkets cheese refrigerator section (1984)

Old Marsh Supermarkets cheese refrigerator section (1984)


Retro greeting cards and makeup at Marsh supermarket store (1984)

Retro greeting cards and makeup at Marsh supermarket store (1984)


Pharmacist in the drug counter section of Marsh Xtra Stores (1984)

Pharmacist in the drug counter section of Marsh Xtra Stores (1984)


Borden ice cream and popsicles from 1985

Borden ice cream and popsicles from 1985


1980s Winn-Dixie staff and departments (1985)

1980s Winn-Dixie staff and departments (1985)


A Winn Dixie cheese selection from 1985

A Winn Dixie cheese selection from 1985


Retro 1985 Winn-Dixie checkout stands

Retro 1985 Winn-Dixie checkout stands


Wonderful Winn-Dixie workers from the 80s

Wonderful Winn-Dixie workers from the 80s

ALSO SEE
Vintage Wal-Mart history: What the first stores looked like, and how they changed over the years

Checkers at an 80s Winn-Dixie store

Checkers at an 80s Winn-Dixie store

SEE MORE: 28 vintage bad product names so fabulously awful, you won’t see them today


Loading groceries after a trip to Fry’s Food and Drug (1986)

Loading groceries after a trip to Fry's Food and Drug (1986)

ALSO SEE: 100 vintage 1960s supermarkets & old-fashioned grocery stores


Shopping at a 1980s Turkey Hill Minit Market (1986)

Shopping at a 1980s Turkey Hill Minit Market (1986)


80s woman picking out oranges in the fruit section of a Stop and Shop store (1986)

80s woman picking out oranges in the fruit section of a Stop and Shop store (1986)


Retro Kroger newspaper ad with product prices from 1986

Retro Kroger newspaper ad with product prices from 1986


Vintage Safeway supermarket ad (1986)

Vintage Safeway supermarket ad (1986)


Retro 1986 photo of loading groceries into a car

Retro 1986 photo of loading groceries into a car


Winn-Dixie bulk foods and hot foods (1986)

Winn-Dixie bulk foods and hot foods (1986)


Retro 80s grocery checker at Lucky (1987)

Retro 80s grocery checker at Lucky (1987)


Perusing the laundry detergent aisle in 1987

Perusing the laundry detergent aisle in 1987


Retro snack food brands available at Albertsons in 1987

Retro snack food brands available at Albertsons in 1987


Grocery store checkout at an old Winn-Dixie (1987)

Grocery store checkout at an old Winn-Dixie (1987)


Bakery goodies at a Dillon’s store in 1987

Bakery goodies at a Dillon's store in 1987


Leaving an 80s Lucky supermarket (1987)

Leaving an 80s Lucky supermarket (1987)


80s woman carefully contemplating Hershey’s cocoa (1988)

80s woman carefully contemplating Hershey's cocoa (1988)


Vegetables at an 80s Kroger grocery chain store

Vegetables at an 80s Kroger grocery chain store.


Buying pasta at a grocery store in the 80s

Buying pasta at a grocery store in the 80s


80s mom shopping with kids in the supermarket’s canned food aisle

80s mom shopping with kids in the supermarket's canned food aisle


Retro 80s snack foods at the grocery store

Retro 80s snack foods at the grocery store


Vintage 80s convenience store shelves of soda and chips

Vintage 80s convenience store shelves of soda and chips


Vintage 80s Lucky grocery chain florist and flowers section

Vintage 80s Lucky grocery chain florist and flowers section


80s produce aisle with a neon sign overhead

80s produce aisle with neon sign overhead


Retro 80s Kraft salad dressings and sauces

Retro 80s Kraft salad dressings and sauces


VIDEO: 1987 Cub Foods commercial: “How do they keep prices so low?”

YouTube video

MORE: Grocery stores of the 50s | Retro 60 grocers | 1970s supermarkets

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Comments on this story

3 Responses

  1. I think all our (my sister, me, my brother) birthday cakes came from Winn Dixie in the late 80s in KY. They were good! I go to a local IGA in Cincy, which I love because it’s similar to the smaller grocery stores I grew up with.

  2. Growing up in northern Illinois in the 80s, I definitely remember the plain yellow label generic items at Eagle’s! That’s something I haven’t seen in YEARS!

    BTW, why did they quit making Five Alive? I really loved that juice, they should bring it back!

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