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Florida Guide > Shopping

Walmart – A potted history

When we visit the USA we will inevitably visit the huge Walmart store close to our home. The store, whilst functional , and perhaps too large at times, is quite an amazing selling machine. And this is just one store, in one county, in one State. When you consider that the process is being repeated many thousands of times across the USA it really makes you wonder how did it evolve? Well, I wanted to find out so have decided to share this knowledge in this short article.

The store’s history dates back to the 1940s with Sam Walton. He began his career after taking a job from James Cash Penny (J C Penny) working at a store in a place named Marshalltown in Iowa. Sam continued working for JC Penny for around 18 months before taking a lease on a single Ben Franklin store (similar to the dollar stores of today) in Newport. After a 3 year period Sam Walton increased sales from $80, 000 to over $225, 000 per year.

After this period the lease was not renewed by the store landlords so Sam Walton decided to purchase his own Franchise business, part of the Butler brothers chain. This culminated in the launch of Walton’s 5 & 10 on 9 May 1950 in Bentonville, a small town and the location of the first store with Walton’s name on it. The town of Bentonville remains the headquarters of Walmart even today.

Walton was an assertive businessman and strived for bigger and better deals from his suppliers. He soon realised that by passing on these savings and selling larger volumes he could maintain an acceptable level of success. By 1962 he had 11 franchised Walton stores to his name and in the same year purchased his first store for his own discount chain. Walmart was born.

The chain grew swiftly and by 1967 consisted of 24 stores turning over $12. 6 million in sales. Through the 1970’s growth continued with a number of acquisitions along the way and expansion into areas such as Pharmacy, Car servicing and jewellery. By 1979 the empire comprised of 276 stores and $1. 25 billion in sales.

Walmart expanded into the south east in the early 1980’s opening stores in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Nebraska. In April 1983 the first Sam’s Club store opened, a membership based ‘cash n carry’ type product. By 1987, the chain’s 25th birthday, there were 1198 stores producing $15. 9 billion of turnover and 200, 000 employees.

Sam Walton stepped down as CEO in February 1988. Since then Walmart has continued to grow and has even entered the UK market through the acquisition of Asda. In the US Walmart now consists of some 2500 stores plus 585 Sam’s Clubs – All in just 60 years.

Author: Denise and Nigel Taylor (Villa link: click here)
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Page added on: 5 January 2009
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