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The birth of discount retailing.

Most people think discount retailing began in 1962 – the year that Kmart, Target, and Walmart first opened. But actually, the chain of variety stores Sam Walton owned during the 1950s faced stiff competition from many regional discount stores.

1962 – Walmart begins

Before opening Walmart, Sam traveled the country studying everything he could about discount retailing. He became convinced American consumers wanted a new type of store. Trusting his vision, Sam and his wife Helen put up 95 percent of the money for the first Walmart store in Rogers, Ark.

1972 – Walmart goes public

Discounters such as Kmart quickly expanded in the 1960s, while Sam only had enough money to build 15 Walmart stores. In 1972, Walmart stock was offered for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange. With this infusion of capital, our company grew to 276 stores in 11 states by the end of the decade.

The 1980s – Walmart comes of age

In 1983, the first Sam’s Club members-warehouse store opened. The first Supercenter opened in 1988, featuring a complete grocery, and 36 departments of general merchandise. By 1989, there were 1,402 Walmart stores and 123 Sam’s Club locations. Employment had increased tenfold. Sales had grown from $1 billion in 1980, to $26 billion.

The 21st century – one of the most successful retailers in the world

Today, 9884 stores and club locations in 28 countries employ 2.1 million associates, serving more than 176 million customers a year. Our history is a perfect example of how to manage growth without losing sight of your values. Our most basic value has always been, and always will be, customer service.

Sam’s secret — give your customers what they want

In his autobiography, Sam said, "… if you think about it from the point of view of the customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; and a pleasant shopping experience. You love it when a store exceeds your expectations, and you hate it when a store inconveniences you, gives you a hard time, or pretends you're invisible."

                                          History of Walmart

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article covers the history of Walmart, the large international discount retail chain.

Early history

The history of Walmart can be traced back to the 1940s when Sam Walton began his career in retailing at J.C. Penney. In 1943 Walton met the Butler Brothers who owned the retail chain Ben Franklin Stores. On May 9, 1950, Walton purchased a store from Luther E. Harrison in Bentonville, Arkansas, and opened Walton's 5 & 10. Thus, the Ozark Mountain town of 2,900 residents would become the headquarters for the world's largest retailer.

In 1962 Walton invested 95% of the capital to open the first Walmart store.

1960s and 1970s

At some point Sam Walton made the decision to achieve higher sales volumes by keeping sales prices lower than his competitors by reducing his profit margin. Inspired by the successes of other discount department store chains, Walton opened the first store in his own discount chain in Rogers, Arkansas that year. Responsible for the purchase and maintenance of signage, Walton's assistant, Bob Bogle, came up with the name "Wal-Mart" for the new chain. By 1967, the company grew to 24 stores across the state of Arkansas, and had reached $12.6 million in sales, and by 1968, the company opened its first stores outside of Arkansas in Sikeston, Missouri and Claremore, Oklahoma. The company's first stock split occurred in May 1972 at a market price of $47. By this time, Walmart was operating in five states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma, and entered Tennessee in 1973, and Kentucky and Mississippi in 1974. As the company moved into Texas in 1975, there were 125 stores with 7,500 associates, and total sales of $340.3 million.

By 1977, Wal-Mart made its first corporate acquisition, assuming ownership and operation of the Mohr-Value stores in Michigan and Illinois. This was followed by the acquisition of the Hutcheson Shoe Company in 1978. In the same year Walmart also branched out into several new markets, launching its pharmacy, auto service center, and jewelry divisions.

By 1979, with 276 stores and 21,000 associates, Walmart reached $1.248 billion in sales.

1980s and 1990s

In 1981, Wal-Mart moved into the southeastern U.S. market, opening stores in Georgia and South Carolina, and acquiring 92 Kuhn's Big K stores. They moved into Florida and Nebraska in 1982.

In April 1983, the company opened its first Sam's Club store, a membership-based discount warehouse club, in Midwest City, Oklahoma. They also opened new Wal-Mart stores in Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico and North Carolina, and implemented "people greeters" in all of their stores. In 1984, they entered the Virginia market.

In 1985, with 882 stores with sales of $8.4 billion and 104,000 associates, the company entered Wisconsin and Colorado, and the first stores in Minnesota opened the following year, in 1986.

By the company's twenty-fifth anniversary in 1987, there were offices to track inventory, sales, and send instant communication to their stores. Continuing their technological upgrades, they had equipped 90% of their stores with barcode readers by 1988, to further assist in keeping track of their large inventory.

In February 1988, company founder Sam Walton stepped down as Chief Executive Officer, and David Glass was named to succeed him. Walton remained on as Chairman of the Corporate Board of Directors, and the company also restructured their senior management positions, elevating a cadre of executives to positions of greater responsibility.

Also in 1988, the first Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in Washington, Missouri. The supercenter concept features everything contained in a standard Walmart discount store, in addition to a tire and oil change shop, optical center, one-hour photo processing lab, portrait studio, and numerous alcove shops such as banks, cellular telephone stores, hair and nail salons, video rental stores, and other fast food outlets.

By 1989, Walmart was operating in 27 states with the addition of Michigan, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Wyoming. By 1990, they entered the markets of California, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Utah. The Walmart Visitor's Center also opened this year on the site of Sam Walton's original store.

The 1990s saw an era of furious growth on an unprecedented scale and the incorporation of several new ideas and technology into the business.

In 1990, US sales had quadrupled to $32 billion over the previous five years and Walmart acquired The McLane Company, a food service distributor, which was later sold to Berkshire Hathaway in 2003.

In 1991, the company moved into the Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York markets. Walmart entered the international market in this year, with the opening of their first store in Mexico City. They also acquired Western Merchandisers, Inc. of Amarillo, Texas. 1991 also saw the launch of the Sam's American Choice brand of products.

On March 17, 1992 U.S. President George H. W. Bush presents Sam Walton with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sam Walton passes away on April 5, 1992. His eldest son, S. Robson Walton, succeeds him as Chairman of the corporate board of directors, on April 7, 1992. This year, Walmart had a presence in 45 states with the addition of Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, as well as Puerto Rico.

In 1993, the Walmart International Division was formed with Bobby Martin as its president. The company also enters the U.S. markets of Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Washington. Their stores also achieve the billion-dollar sales mark in one week in December 1993.

In 1994, the National Advertising Review Board challenged the Walmart slogan, "Always the low price. Always," contending that it implied that Walmart's prices were always the lowest and could mislead some shoppers. In response, Walmart adopted a new slogan, "Always low prices. Always."

Also in 1994, the Code Adam program was instituted in Walmart stores. That same year, Walmart acquired 91 PACE Membership Warehouse clubs from Kmart and 122 Woolco stores in Canada in 1994. In addition, it opened 3 value clubs in Hong Kong, and had 96 stores in Mexico.

By 1995, Walmart had 1,995 discount stores, 239 Supercenters, 433 SAM'S CLUBS and 276 international stores with sales at $93.6 billion (including US sales of $78 billion) and 675,000 associates. Walmart entered its 50th state (Vermont), and enters the South American market, with three new units in Argentina and five in Brazil. The company enters the Chinese market in 1996 through a joint-venture agreement.

In 1997, Walmart replaced Woolworth on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company has its first $100 billion sales year, with sales totaling $118.1 billion. Also this year, they acquire 21 Wertkauf stores in Germany, and introduce their OneSource nutrition centers.

In 1998, Walmart introduced the Neighborhood Market concept at three stores in Arkansas. Neighborhood Market stores are predominantly grocery stores, and are meant to attract customers with easier parking, less crowded aisles and quicker checkout.

Also in 1998, Walmart launched its Wal-Mart Television Network, a vast, in-store advertising network showing commercials for products sold in the stores, concert clips and music videos for a recording artist's media, trailers for upcoming movie releases, and news.

The Asda chain in the United Kingdom became a subsidiary of the American retail giant Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, in 1999,[4] and is the second largest chain in the UK after Tesco.

21st century

In 2000, H. Lee Scott was named president and CEO and US sales had doubled to $156 billion since 1995.

Also in 2000, Walmart was ranked fifth by Fortune magazine on its Global Most Admired All-Stars list, and in 2003 and 2004, as the most admired company in America.

In 2005, Walmart had $312.4 billion in sales, more than 6,200 facilities around the world, including 3,800 stores in the United States and 3,800 international units, and employing more than 1.6 million associates worldwide. In fact, their U.S. presence had grown so rapidly that there were only small pockets of the country that remained further than 60 miles away from the nearest Walmart. Approximately 138 million customers visited Walmart stores each week all over the world. Their corporate philanthropy efforts also assisted the U.S. hurricane relief efforts with $18 million in cash donations.

In 2006, on 26 July Walmart announced its complete pull-out of the German market. All existing 85 stores were sold to the Metro Group which in turn turns most of the stores of their own brand real,-.

On September 12, 2007, after 13 years, Walmart introduced new advertising with the slogan, "Save Money Live Better," instead of "Always Low Prices, Always." It commissioned Global Insight for the ads and the report stated that as of 2006, the retailer saves American families $2,500 yearly (up 7.3% from $2,329 , 2004). The new research found that the reduction in price levels due to Walmart resulted to savings for consumers of $287 billion in 2006, which is $957 per person or $2,500 per household.

On June 30, 2008, Walmart unveiled the company's new logo, which stylized the name as "Walmart". A spark, a symbol chosen to represent Walmart associates, replaces the star.

On February 22, 2010, the company confirmed it acquiring the video streaming company Vudu, Inc. for an estimated $100 million.

New ventures

In late 2005, Walmart designed two experimental stores, one in McKinney, Texas and the other in Aurora, Colorado, which featured wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, biofuel-capable boilers, water-cooled refrigerators, and xeriscape gardens. The buildings also included many other energy and cost saving technologies.

In March 2006, Walmart sought to appeal to a more affluent demographic, with the opening of a new supercenter in Plano, Texas which was intended to compete against stores that some viewed as more upscale and appealing. The new store features wooden floors, wider aisles, a sushi bar, a coffee/sandwich shop (with free Wi-Fi Internet access), a Subway, and higher-end items such as microbrew beer, expensive wines, and high-end electronics. The exterior sports the less-common hunter green background behind the Walmart letters instead of the trademark blue.

In response to the popularity of organic food supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, Walmart announced plans in May 2006, to increase the amount of organic food available in its stores. They announced that both conventionally grown and organic versions of certain products would be available, and the price of organic versions would not be more than 10% over the price of conventionally-grown products. Since Walmart is one of the nation's largest grocery retailers, there was some concern expressed that their push to lower prices would not be sustainable for inexpensive organic food.

The 2010 remodelings of their smaller stores shifted their emphasis away from non-grocery products towards carrying grocery items carried by their supercenters. This has created a small backlash amongst some loyal customers. The smaller sizes and the larger sizes in the adult clothing were discontinued as well as available styles, forcing adult customers to look for clothing in the children's section, or go to the more expensive specialty Big and Tall stores for basic items like jeans. Their popular Wrangler and Faded Glory brands are not readily available through their on-line stores in the larger sizes, making many of their customers feel that Walmart has completely abandoned their needs now that they have driven Kmart out of most areas and is more interested in maximizing their profits and pursuing the affluent demographic than being the one-stop-store filling the needs for the entire family.

Legal trouble

Over the last decade or so Walmart has become involved in thousands of lawsuits for a variety of reasons. The majority of the suits are class action lawsuits in which employees are suing for unpaid wages. They have also run into many discrimination cases in which employees are suing for being profiled out of money or out of jobs. For instance, there were two separate cases, one in 2004 and one in 2005 in which African Americans were suing two different Walmarts for denying them jobs based on race. These became so popular that the reverend Jesse Jackson spoke during both of the proceedings. There are also many lawsuits in which women are suing Wal-Mart for discriminating against them. In one article written in 2004 USA today mentioned 32 different lawsuits that involved women suing Walmart. But still walmart has prevailed. All of this has not affected Walmart financially however, according to Fortune 500, Walmart still had $351 billion in revenue ($11 billion in profit) in 2007, a new high for the corporation.

On December 3, 2008, the family of Walmart service worker Jdimytai Damour, who was killed by a stampede of shoppers frantically entering a Valley Stream, New York Walmart store on Black Friday (November 28) , filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the corporation; Damour's family alleged Walmart of encouraging a mass number of customers to come to the store simultaneously. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Walmart for "...inadequate crowd management following the Nov. 28, 2008, death of an employee at its Valley Stream, N.Y., store. The worker died of asphyxiation after he was knocked to the ground and trampled by a crowd of about 2,000 shoppers who surged into the store for its annual "Blitz Friday" pre-holiday sales event." The company went on to spend an estimated $2 million in legal fees fighting OSHA's $7,000 fine, because it apparently wished to prevent OSHA from establishing a precedent that would enable OSHA to influence Walmart's crowd control measures in the future.

Countries of operation

As of October 2009, Walmart stores operate in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Pakistan,and the United States, ( Nepal) ].The only store with old features is the one in Antioch, California until its remodel in November 2010.

Each Walmart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.”

- Sam Walton

As Arkansans, Walmart is in our blood. For some it’s a lifeline, for others a resource. It’s the place we rush to after work to pick up dinner for our family, it’s the place we turn to when we’re sick and need a prescription filled. Some of us worked our first job at Walmart, some of us have a lifelong career at Walmart. Over the years, Walmart has devoted itself to providing a better lifestyle for its customers and its associates. From their every day low pricing to their unmatched corporate culture, Walmart has positively impacted the lives of many, not only in Arkansas, but also across the nation. Today, this commitment to helping others is also reaching around the globe through Walmart International, their good works and their continued commitment to saving people money, so they can live better—worldwide.


What started in Rogers as a small discount store has quickly expanded throughout the rest of the country, infiltrating the daily lives of so many other Americans. Today, there are over 4,300 stores throughout the nation delivering low prices and quality goods, on a daily basis. That was the promise of founder Sam Walton after all. Since 1962, Walmart has delivered on this promise across the country. But in 1991, Walmart decided to take their promise worldwide. That was the year Walmart opened its doors in Mexico City. On that day, Walmart International was born and has since grown faster than many would expect. Today, Walmart has entered into 14 different markets internationally all for one purpose; to save people money so they can live better. In just 19 short years, Walmart International has become the company’s fastest growing division, generating 25 percent of the company’s total revenue. Over four years, the division grew their sales from $60 billion to an impressive $100 billion, all the while expanding their business and growing on a daily basis. Through their phenomenal growth, Walmart International has proven their staying power as a global brand.


Today, Walmart has divisions in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, China, Canada, Brazil, India and several other countries. By surveying markets across the globe, Walmart has foreseen where their business could best serve the local customer base and where they can best provide their service.

Making good on this promise is often hard to do when building a company from scratch, especially considering most consumers aren’t familiar with the Walmart brand we Americans know and love. As a result, more than 75 percent of Walmart’s international business is operated under a different banner name. For example, in Brazil you will find a Toda Dia, in the United Kingdom they’re known as ASDA, and throughout Japan they’re Seiyu. Each of these acquisitions aren’t recognizable as the Walmarts we know and love, except for their ability to deliver on their one promise.

By partnering with already established companies, Walmart International has found a seamless way of entering into new markets and exposing these markets to every day low pricing. In order to deliver on their value proposition, or the promise to save people money so they can live better, Walmart needs to be able to be relevant to their vendors with a sizeable volume, which oftentimes can only be achieved through acquisitions of other companies, such as D&S in Chile and Cifra in Mexico. By capturing the brand equity already established by these companies, Walmart is able to add their own value to established names in growing markets.

“The name Walmart might not mean anything to you if you are Spanish speaking or Chinese speaking, so we tailor that to what the customers are looking for,” explains Mitchell Slape, Senior Vice President of International Business Development for Walmart.

Not only are the banners different, but store formats aren’t always what you would expect from a Walmart store. Walmart International has recognized how to tailor their stores to their target market throughout the world.

“We’ve learned over time we have to be a bit more diverse in our approach in order to be relevant to customers. You can’t just plop down a Supercenter everywhere and have that work,” Slape continues.

 As a result, Walmart International has nine different store formats they have used worldwide. Ranging from supercenters and convenience- like stores, to clothing only stores and business-to-business wholesalers, each format offers something unique. This variety allows for Walmart to connect to their local patrons and provide customers a store that will fit into their daily lives effortlessly.

In order to develop in a market, an untapped sector must be targeted where customers aren’t being served well, and where Walmart can enter and fill that void. Each country is different, with local customers needs varying. Walmart enters hoping to figure out where they can best resonate with each.

Through studying these discrepancies in locations, Walmart is learning from their early markets and improving on newer additions. The processes that worked are often tweaked and used in a different country in a way that will best serve the local population. For example, Walmart Mexico operates a format of stores called Bodegas, which seemed to be working well for customers of a slightly lower income base. Through this finding, Walmart was able to use the Bodega format in Argentina as well, where the customer base was similar—affording consumers the same value found elsewhere.


Saving people money, so they can live better— this is the proposition Walmart makes every day when running their business. This buy generic drugs online value is of course providing shoppers what they need, at every day low prices. As it expands worldwide, Walmart’s value proposition rings deeper.

In many of the countries Walmart does business in, consumers often have a hard time finding reliable and trustworthy products. Slape shares a story of visiting with customers in Central America who had made the shift from shopping at their local central market to shopping with a Walmart franchise because of the disappointment in the quality of products found at the central market. One woman explained about a time when she once bought a face cream that had been partially filled with flour, to make it appear as though the product was larger than it was. Imagine the disappointment when discovering that she was not getting the full product she paid for.

“It’s extraordinarily important for our customers to know that what they’re buying is authentic, that they’re spending the money they’ve got on something that is real,” Slape says.

By proving their mission true across the world, Walmart brands will continue to grow in the 14 markets where they are found as well as eventually expand into others. By learning from each other, and of course from their most developed market, the United States, Walmart has developed an equation that works to their benefit.

“It’s really important to plant seeds and to start with a really strong foundation, and that happens through working with local governments, with the local vendor base, all of that is planting seeds that will help us be able to harvest and enjoy our contribution,” shared Cathy Smith, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Chief Financial Officer for Walmart International.

 In most places Walmart brands are found, they are bringing something to the table that wasn’t there before. In India, Walmart’s cash and carry operations, Best Price Modern Wholesale, has greatly improved the way locals do their own business. By providing a place for local merchants to purchase goods for their business and offering an assortment of items to meet their needs, Best Price Modern Wholesale has become a one stop shop for their day-to-day needs. Where they were once required to shop at sometimes up to 70 different vendors, all of their needs can be met in one place, which obviously greatly changes their way of life.

“What we bring is something that customers don’t really get to enjoy on a day-to-day basis, and we’re bringing unique product, great prices and quality of merchandise,” Slape explains.

The success in these business practices is easy to spot. Customers worldwide have a place to shop for quality products at low prices, often in markets where this need has never been met.

“They can come to our business and they have confidence and trust for the value of that product—we just made their lives immensely easier because now they have one place for that guarantee and predictability,” Smith shares.


Walmart International has seen an immense growth over the years and it seems the future will only get brighter for this division. By expanding and developing their current markets, growing in new markets and continuing to provide customers their value proposition, Walmart International will continue to see success.

Through targeting their top three international countries, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Canada, Walmart International hopes to expand in these three markets at a calculated rate. By doing so, the company looks to assume higher risk and in exchange, obtain higher returns. Their returns after all, will allow them to grow into new markets worldwide and increase business globally. New opportunities are out there for the company, and Walmart International is looking forward to embarking on them.

“The great news is, I love our footprint around the world, because we’re in some markets that really are developing and when you think about the mission of saving people money so they can live better, we do that really well in a lot of countries,” explains Smith.

Because at Walmart, there must be a belief that they can actually deliver day after day on their one simple promise—saving people money so they can live better.


Walmart may be changing people’s lives in their stores, by providing merchandise at low prices, but it is also outside the store where you can find them improving the quality of many lives in the communities they are located around the world. Through a commitment to bettering the lives of their associates and customers in their neighborhoods, Walmart International has made it their mission to positively impact the communities they are a part of.

When disaster strikes, Walmart has been known to reach out. At the beginning of the year, when the disastrous earthquake hit Haiti, the Walmart Foundation donated $500,000 to Red Cross emergency relief efforts in Haiti as well as sent pre-packaged food kits valued at $100,000 to the ground to help feed the Haitian people. To date, Walmart has donated more than $1.5 million to Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

Once again, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 struck the country of Chile, the Walmart Foundation did not hesitate. Just hours after the country was hit, the foundation announced an initial commitment of $1 million to go towards emergency relief efforts in the country. To date, Walmart has donated more than $1.1 million. D&S, Walmart’s retail operation in Chile and the largest food retailer in the country, employs more than 34,000 associates and operates more than 250 stores throughout the country. With this donation and relief efforts, it is easy to see that supporting their communities is part of the corporate culture that Walmart thrives in.


Empowering women in countries around the world is a cause that is near to the company’s heart as well. Through their own efforts, and by teaming up with the humanitarian organization CARE, Walmart has put women at the top on the list of their priorities.

Last May Walmart announced a $1 million grant to CARE to fund programs that focus on empowering impoverished young women around the globe. Ranging from education to job-training and entrepreneurial support programs, this donation was the first step toward a long-term partnership with CARE. Each of these programs were made possible through this grant, which the Walmart Foundation announced would be increased to a $3 million commitment just last month. Through this continued support, Walmart and CARE have been able to team up for programs specifically meant to empower women around the world. Later that year, in November 2009, Walmart and CARE announced the launch of a Cashew Value Chain Initiative. This initiative will create a women owned-and-operated community-based institution to provide consistent and fair incomes for approximately 750 women that work in the cashew and farming sector in Southern India. From enhancing income opportunities by 20 percent, improving the literacy of the participants as well as business skills, and creating a greater awareness of health and nutrition, the values of this initiative will reach over 4,000 people in the area.

In February of this year, Walmart once again stepped up and with the help of CARE launched a women’s empowerment initiative in Bangladesh factories. This program will provide 2,500 female factory workers with a longterm, sustainable means of improving their standard of living and working environments. By improving workplace skills and literacy training, Walmart and CARE hope to empower these women and as a result indirectly benefit the families and communities that surround them.

They didn’t stop there either. Walmart and CARE also announced the launching of the Peru Agricultural Economic Development Initiative. This initiative seeks to help 2,300 small-scale farmers in Peru. This program is expected to create 300 new jobs in the region, as well as increase participants’ incomes by 30 percent. Women will play a large part in the initiative by becoming more involved in their family’s farming operations. The program hopes to improve agricultural operations, expand production, and gain better access to both local and export markets.

Throughout their own company and global operations, Walmart has empowered women, from their associates to their customers. Last year, to see this empowerment through to its fullest potential, Walmart’s President and CEO Mike Duke formed the President’s Global Council of Women Leaders. The council is comprised of 15 senior women leaders within Walmart’s U.S. and International business units. The women provide advice and counsel on important issues pertaining to females in the workplace across the globe. Primarily focusing on identification, development, advancement and retention of women to senior leadership roles within the company.

Across the world, women make up 70 percent of the one billion people living on less than a dollar a day. This staggering amount of women also work two-thirds of the working hours, produce half of the world’s food, yet only earn 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. As a result, and through these initiatives with CARE, Walmart hopes to see those numbers rise on women’s behalf.

This dedication is a theme throughout the work of Walmart as a company, as well as their international division. From delivering on their value proposition to caring for the communities they are in around the world, Walmart continues to prove itself as a good corporate citizen of our day. 

Sam Walton's original Walton's Five and Dime, now the Walmart Visitor's Center Bentonville, Arkansas.

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