Supermarkets Italiani: Nelson A. Rockefeller's International Basic Economy Corporation and the Introduction of Supermarkets to Italy

Jan 01, 2001 | by
  • Description

When I started my research on the arrival of mass marketing and mass distribution in Italy, my aim was to explain the origin of a peculiar phenomenon. Thousands of small shopkeepers were still the only traders in the 1950s, while supermarkets and department stores were already common in Europe and the United States. These small shops were usually run on a family basis, and they did not sell processed food or frozen products. Hence, there was a kind of "displacement" between the level of development enjoyed by the production industry and the backwardness of the retail trade world. The first supermarket in Italy finally opened in Milan in 1957, starting a rapid diffusion of the new sales systems. The International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC), an American corporation based in New York and owned by Nelson A. Rockefeller, created that supermarket. Until my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center (RAC), I had been able to gather little information on the story or about the company's motivations and final results. Newspapers and local archives were not particularly helpful.