Updike's story was published in 1962 and reflects both the puritanical values and consumer aspirations of early 1960s small town America.
That this is a prim small town and not the loose beach resort five miles away is made clear from Sammy's description of the view from the A&P:
If you stand at our front doors you can see two banks and the Congregational church and the newspaper store and three real estate offices.
This is an old-fashioned small town that doesn't seem to have changed much since the 1920s or 30s, and the three teenaged girls from the beach send a shock wave through the store employees when they enter the respectable A&P in their bare feet and no other clothing than their bathing suits. The girl Sammy calls Queenie even has let the straps of her bathing suit fall off her shoulders. What in this time period seems a state of provocative undress is too much for Lengel, the store's manager, who tells the girls:
We want you decently dressed when you come in here.
He explains that this means they must come in with their shoulders covered.
Yet while Lengel upholds the town's puritanical values, the A&P also represents a modern supermarket, a consumer center that sells not only canned goods, meats, and such speciality items as the jar of herring Queenie buys, but such items as toys wrapped in cellophane and discounted records. Sammy defends the girls by quitting over the way Lengel treats them, but this act arguably involves not so much a rejection of puritanical values as an embrace of the material aspirations the girls represent to him. He thinks of them as rich beach girls with whom he identifies and whom he wishes he could be like. His idea of the good life they represent gives us a glimpse of what early 1960s teens like Sammy found glamorous:
Men ... standing around in ice cream coats and bow ties and the women ... in sandals picking up herring snacks on toothpicks off a big plate and they were all holding drinks the color of water with olives and sprigs of mint in them.