In 1962, Samuel Moore “Sam” Walmart opened his first discount store in Rogers, Arkansas. Since that time, more than 8400 Walmart brand stores have opened across the world and serve more than 200 million people per week. The secret of Walmart’s success starts with its founder.
The Early Years
Sam Walmart was born March 29, 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. While he was still young, Sam and his family moved to Missouri. While in the “show me state”, Sam proved that he was hardworking. He earned his Eagle Scout Badge at age 13 and graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1940.
Soon after graduating, Sam enlisted in the Army’s Intelligence Corps and served as a Captain. The War did not stop Sam from other goals. He married his sweetheart, Helen Robson, on Valentine’s Day in 1943. By 1945, the War was over and Sam turned his attention to business.
In 1945, Sam and Helen moved to Newport Arkansas to take over operation of a struggling Ben Franklin Store. While following the franchise manual, Sam realized some things were working. So, Sam began to experiment with buying direct from manufacturers and reducing his costs. The experiment worked and his store began to be profitable. By 1950, Sam’s store continued to do well, but the landlord refused to renew the stores lease and that ended his enterprise with Ben Franklin.
At this point, Helen encouraged Sam to open his own store. The couple moved to Bentonville and opened the Walton’s Five and Dime in 1951. Sam began to study retail concepts such as self service stores. He began to incorporate this variety store concept and expanded into four states. After some time, Sam wanted to get out the variety store business and into discount stores. He set his sites on starting a store in Rogers, Arkansas.
The Birth of Walmart
In 1962, Sam made history. He opened his first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas. In the same year, discount giants such as Kmart, Woolco and Target also started.
And, Sam’s new store would incorporate all of Sam’s experience with lowering prices and self service. In its first year, the first Walmart made over one million dollars.
Sam did not rest with this success. He was always looking for ways to improve customer service and worker satisfaction. He would study the operations of his big competitors, such as Target, Safeway, Kmart, and Woolco. He would regularly meet with employees and offer them sales reports and peeks at new retail items. The Walmart cheer became the company motto.
Eventually, Sam would open new stores- first in Missouri and then in Oklahoma. By 1969, Walmart Stores was officially incorporated. Through the 1970s and 1980s Walmart continued to grow. Associates remained happy with contests and stock options. Customers grew to trust the low prices and variety of products. And, Sam demonstrated his commitment to both. He visited his stores regularly interacting with associates and customers.
By the mid 1970s, Walmart was the top retail store in the nation and by the 1980s, the Walmart brand included the Sam’s Club stores. And, ironically Walmart acquired one of its competitors, Woolco.
In 1992, weeks after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Sam Walton passed away at the age of 74. Up until the time of his death, Sam Walton continued to believe that saving people money made their lives better and that in order to have a successful company, associates should share in the success.
Since its founder’s death, Walmart has continued to offer more options for customers. Its Supercenters provide grocery shopping options, salons, and in some cases medical services. Its Sam’s Clubs offer great wholesale prices and bulk purchases for individuals, families and businesses.
For information about Walmart’s history or its founder Sam Walmart, read Sam Walmart’s autobiography, Made In America, or check out the following resources: