50 years ago today, Walmart opened its very first store.
Now, Walmart employs over 2.1 million people, with 8,500 stores around the world, and more than 200 million customers every week.
We’ve mapped out the growth of Sam Walton’s empire, which actually started under another name when the entrepreneur started a franchise in the Ben Franklin retail chain.
Walton’s secrets include recognising that selling for less, meant selling more and making more. He also focused on small rural market, places that most people ignored.
Sam Walton lived by discounts from the very start of his career. He said of one of his discount promotions, 'Here's the simple lesson we learned... By cutting your price you can boost your sales to a point where you can earn far more at a cheaper retail price than you would have by selling the item at a higher price. In retailer language, you can lower your mark- up but earn more because of increased volume.'
Walton's strategy worked. He grew sales at Ben Franklin from $80,000 to $225,00 in just three years and was kicked out of his store location because his landlord wanted to give it to his son. So Walton moved on...
His next stop was Bentonville, Ark., where he opened Walton's Five and Dime under the Ben Franklin franchise. Before moving on to Walmart, Walton opened 14 of his small five and dime stores between 1951 and 1962.
Walton's model rested in a strong belief that discount stores could thrive in small towns, with populations of 5,000 or less, and if you sold products at the cheapest price possible, in turn, profits would rise. He proposed that Butler brothers of Ben Franklin cut their margins in half, and the brothers declined.
Sam decided to go it alone, and that's how Walmart was born.
1962: Walton wants to cut margins, but his backers disagree. Walton goes it alone and WALMART is born
The very first Walmart opened in Rogers, Ark. in 1962. Walton and his wife Helen put up 95% of the money for the venture, but obviously it has paid off. Before founder Sam Walton opened the discount store, he traveled the country, gathering ideas for everything he could do about discount retailing.
Just six years later Walmart began expanding outside of Arkansas state boarders. Walmart stores opened in two more southern states, Missouri and Oklahoma.
On October 31, 1969, Walmart was incorporated. In the spring of 1971, Walmart stock had its first 100% split and was sold at market price $47. By 1972, Walmart stock was traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
At this time the stock split 100% again, selling at $47.50. The store also continued expanding, staying in the south, wth stores in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
In August of 1974, Walmart made its first acquisition, 16 Mohr Value Stores in Michigan and Illinois. Four years later, Walmart also acquired the Hutcheson Shoe Company.
By 1976, there were 18 Walmarts, and Walton closed all of his five and dimes, to focus all of his time, energy, and money on Walmart.
As Walmart acquired other stores, and expanded to more states (Illinois, 10th state, 1977), it began transforming to the super store it is today. In 1978, Walmart opened its pharmacy, auto service, and jewellery divisions. Walton's sell low strategy could be applied to any, and every, basic need product, because who wants to spend a fortune on prescriptions?
Celebrating its 18th birthday, Walmart became the fastest company to reach $1 billion in sales. The chain included were 276 stores, 21,000 associates, $1.248 billion in sales.
In the 1980's Walmart continued to expand across the United States.
1981: Georgia and South Carolina
1983: Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, and North Carolina
1985: Wisconsin and Colorado
1988: Michigan, West Virginia, and Wyoming
By the end of the decade, Walmarts were in over half of the states in the country. Small business owners fear Walmarts moving in to their town, but the truth is, Walmarts neither hurt nor help small businesses. Walmarts are just another factor small businesses have to deal with.
1,198 stores, 200,000 associates, and $15.9 billion in sales. Impressive for a company at 25 years, which is still considerably young.
By 1988, Walmart moved onto an even bigger project, and opened its first supercenter. There has always been a resistance in towns when a Supercenter is said to move in, but somehow, Walmart seems to win.
Most recently, San Diego repealed an ordinance that strictly regulated the construction of Supercenters. Walmart now plans to build 12 Supercenters in the San Diego area.
The idea of the smaller markets was to compete with local grocery stores and convenience marts.
The neighbourhood markets are smaller than supercenters and have pharmacies, liquor stores, delis, and bakeries.
By 1991, Walmart moved on to the international market, opening its first Walmart outside of U.S. lines in Mexico City, and the citizens of Mexico loved it. Just two years later, Walmart was doing so well in Mexico City, a supercenter opened as well.
In 1993, Walmart expended to cover 49 states, every U.S. state except Vermont.
At the age of 74, in 1992, Walmart founder Sam Walton passed away. But just before Walton's passing, he received the Medal of Freedom, from President George H. W. Bush. This is an honour reserved for the nations most respected civilians. The President said of Walton:
'An American original, Sam Walton embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and epitomizes the American dream. Concern for his employees, a commitment to his community and a desire to make a difference have been the hallmarks of his career.'
Walton's son, Robson Walton, was named chairman of the board.
Walmart finally introduced a store brand, called the Great Value line. Great Value is the largest food brand line in the U.S. in sales and volume.
The brand has more than 100 categories and works with dozens of suppliers
Finally, Walmart made it to cover 50 states with a Walmart opening in Vermont in 1995. At this point, the company had also acquired Woolco stores in Canada, opened value in Hong Kong, and opened store in Argentina and Brazil. In 1996, Walmart even made its way to China.
In 1997 Walmart saw its first $100 billion sales year and became the largest private company in the United States. Just three years later, Walmart became the largest private employer in the world
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