Sam Walton (1918-1992) began his retailing career in 1940 at a JC Penney store in Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1945, a regional retail firm that owned a chain of variety stores offered Walton a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. Disagreement over the lease renewal and the inability to find an alternative location forced Walton to open another Ben Franklin franchise in Bentonville, Arkansas. He called it "Walton's Five and Dime."
Walton succeeded by selling items at smaller markups than competitors, thereby increasing sales volume.
In 1962, Walton opened his first WALMART store in Rogers, Arkansas. Over the next five years, WALMART expanded to 24 stores in Arkansas.
By 1968, WALMART opened its first stores outside of Arkansas, in Sikeston, Missouri and Claremore, Oklahoma.
In 1969, the company was incorporated as WALMART Stores, Inc.
And the rest is history.
Today, WALMART is the largest retailer and the second largest corporation in the world, with 8,500 stores operating in 15 countries and serving some 200 million worldwide, including 100 million customers in the USA alone, on a weekly basis.
WALMART is the largest private employer in the USA, employing 2.2 million people worldwide, called "associates." The vast majority of managers started as hourly associates.
In an effort to bring affordable health care to consumers, WALMART initiated a program which offers 331 generic prescription drugs to customers for only $4 per 30-day period. Initially launched in Florida in September of 2006, this program has expanded to a majority of WALMART pharmacies and will continue to grow.
Fiscal year sales in 2012 were approximately $444 billion. WALMART is the largest corporate cash charity donor in the USA. In 2011, the company gave $$958.9 million in charitable contributions, including $872.2 million in the USA.
WALMART is an American success story.
It started from humble beginnings and blossomed through a combination of hard work, enthusiasm, smaller profit margins, quality products at affordable prices, being attentive to customers, an efficient distribution system, no slotting fee for suppliers (as many retailers do), etc.
Another reason for success was the small-town market niche Sam Walton targeted. WALMART stores were developed in rural areas where many of the goods WALMART carried were not available in local markets. These areas tended to be lower in per capita income and welcomed a centralized merchandiser with modest prices.
But with success comes criticism. Urbanites in trendy cities often object to a rural discount store in their area. According to a Zogby election poll in 2000, 76% of voters who shop at WALMART voted for Bush, while 80% of voters who never shopped at WALMART voted for Kerry, reflecting conservative/liberal, rural/urban, income-level cultural biases.
Labor unions can't seem to ignore the success of WALMART either and lust for a piece of the action. Unions continually yearn to expand their suffocating tentacles into large flourishing businesses.
Others oppose global free trade. WALMART imports products from foreign countries, particularly China, and has opened stores in foreign locations. But foreign trade is a win-win situation, as long as it remains fair to all sides. As foreign countries emerge economically, everyone prospers and global tensions subside.
Some people just can't stand to see others succeed -- if you don't like WALMART don't work there and don't shop there, but don't spoil it for the rest of us.
Foreign workers and American consumers are people too.
Quote for the Day -- "There is only one boss -- the customer. And he can fire everybody from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else." Sam Walton
Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and 11:11 EARTH TIME (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where WALMART stores thrive in scattered, small rural communities.