Taking a brief detour from our current story to honor a true retail pioneer. It has been my plan to do a set of posts on FedMart early in the New Year, but I wanted to make note of the passing of Sol Price this past Monday at the age of 93.
Price is probably best known as the founder of Price Club, a San Diego-based chain of stores that pioneered the membership warehouse store concept in 1976. In 1993, Price merged his company with another firm to form Price Costco, forerunner of the modern day Costco, an unabashed retail success.
A year later, Price left the company to run a new venture, PriceSmart, from a group of stores spun off in the merger. PriceSmart continues to operate warehouse stores in Central and South America and in the Caribbean Islands.
But before all of that, there was FedMart. Founded in 1954, FedMart was Price’s original retail concept – a no frills, low overhead discount chain that eventually grew to some 40 units, located mostly in Southern California and Texas. FedMart was sold to a German firm in 1975 and folded seven years later.
Price’s legacy lives on, not only in the two membership store chains he was directly connected with, but in another very significant one – no one, with the possible exception of Harry Cunningham, the “father of Kmart”, had a greater influence on Walmart founder Sam Walton. Walton was an enthusiastic student of Price’s merchandising and cost control methods. And Sam’s Club, Walmart’s membership warehouse banner, started out as largely a knockoff of Price Club - as Walton admitted in his best-selling autobiography.
Even today the influence is felt – take a good look at the logo on the pictured store (the location of which I would love to know), circa early 1970’s.
From everything I’ve read about Price, it’s clear that he was a man of inventiveness, and above all, integrity. He will be missed.
Thanks to the several readers who identified this store location for us - on Harbor Boulevard at the Chapman Avenue intersection in Garden Grove, just down the street from The Happiest Place on Earth. It is now a Target store.