Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation operating hypermarkets, grocery stores, and discount department stores. It was founded by Sam Walton in Arkansas in 1962.
Walton was a military veteran who moved to Newport, Arkansas after his service ended in 1945. Walton and his wife Helen then purchased their first Ben Franklin variety store franchise.
After five years in operation, Sam had fulfilled his wish to make the franchise the top store in the state. He achieved this through exemplary customer service and low prices, a personal philosophy still important to Walmart today.
In 1950, the Waltons were forced to move on after the landlord refused to renew their lease.
The move to Bentonville, Arkansas
Walton then began scouring northwest Arkansas for somewhere to establish a new presence. In Bentonville, he found a small variety store whose owner was willing to sell. He called this Ben Franklin franchise Walton’s Five and Dime, marketing it as the “most up-to-date, modern variety store in Northwest Arkansas.”
Between 1951 and 1962, Walton would open a further 14 stores in small, rural towns. He believed discount stores could thrive in these places provided products were sold at the cheapest price possible. He went to Ben Franklin with this strategy, but they were uninterested after learning their margins would have to be cut in half.
As a result, Walton decided to strike out alone.
The first Walmart store and further expansion
The first Walmart store opened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Sam and Helen provided 95% of the required funding, so they had to make it work. To increase their odds of success, Sam would travel the country and learn everything he could about discount retailing.
In 1968, Walmart expanded into Missouri and Oklahoma and opened its first distribution center in Bentonville. The following year, Walmart Stores was incorporated and held an IPO. By 1972, Sam Walton had enough money to build 15 more stores. Facing stiff competition from retail giants such as Kmart, Walmart stock was offered on the New York Stock Exchange on August 15 that same year.
By the end of the decade, Walmart grew to 276 stores in 11 different states. The company made several acquisitions during this time, including 16 Mohr Value Stores and the Hutcheson Shoe Company.
Coming of age
In 1980, Walmart became the fastest company to reach $1 billion in sales after just 18 years in operation. As the company continued to expand into other U.S. states, so too did Walton’s aspirations.
The first Walmart Supercenter opened in 1988, at the time an experimental hypermarket selling traditional groceries alongside other services. These included pet shops, garden centers, optical centers, pharmacies, and photo processing labs. Sam’s Club was also created around this time, a membership-only retail warehouse club offering exclusive savings on shipping, fuel, and prescriptions, among other things.
In 1990, Walmart became the top retailer in the United States – a title it still holds over three decades later.
- Walmart was founded by Sam Walton who started his retail career by operating a Ben Franklin variety store franchise. Walton believed in delivering value to the customer through exemplary customer service and low prices.
- Walton would go on to operate 15 Ben Franklin franchises but decided to create his own chain after disagreements with the owners over profit margins.
- The first Walmart store opened in Arkansas in 1962. Expansion throughout the United States was facilitated by an IPO in 1969 and a debut on the NYSE in 1972. By 1980, Walmart surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue and began experimenting with hypermarket and membership-only retail models.
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