Samuel Moore "Sam" Walton (March 29, 1918 – April 5, 1992) was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. He graduatrd in 1940 with a Bachelor's of Economics.
Walton joined JC Penney as a management trainee in Des Moines, Iowa three days after graduating from college. This position paid him $75 a month. He joined into the military for service in World War II. Walton joined the military in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps. In this position he served at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. He eventually reached the rank of captain.
In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. It was here that Walton pioneered many concepts that became crucial to his success later on. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods. His second store, the tiny "Eagle" department store, was down the street from his first Ben Franklin and next door to its main (Newport) competitor. Walton leased the space
mainly to preempt his competitor from expanding.
The success of Walton drew the attention of the landlord, P.K. Holmes, whose family had a history in retail. He wanted to reclaim the store (and franchise rights) for his son and refused to renew the lease. The lack of a renewal option, together with the prohibitively high rent of 5% of sales, were early business lessons to
Walton. Holmes bought the store's inventory and fixtures for $50,000.
Walton negotiated the purchase of a new location on the downtown square of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton negotiated the purchase of a small store, and the title to the building, on the condition that he get a 99-year lease to expand into the shop next door. The owner of the shop next door refused 6 times, and his father-in-law, without Sam's knowledge, paid the shop owner a final visit and $20,000 to secure the lease. He had just enough left from the sale of the first store to close the deal, and reimburse his father-in-law. They opened for business with a one-day remodeling sale on May 9, 1950. Before he bought the Bentonville store, it was doing $72,000 in sales and it increased to $105,000 in the first year and then 140,000 and $175,000.
The new Bentonville "Five and Dime" opened for business. But 220 miles away, there was still a year left on the lease in Newport which Walton has to manage. Young Walton had to learn to delegate responsibility. After succeeding with two stores at such a distance, Sam became enthusiastic about scouting more locations and opening more Ben Franklin franchises.
In 1954, he opened a store with his brother Bud in a shopping center in Ruskin Heights, a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. With the help of his brother, father-in-law, and brother-in-law, Sam went on to open many new variety stores. He encouraged his managers to invest and take an equity stake in the business, often as much as $1000 in their store, or the next outlet to open. (This motivated the managers to sharpen their managerial skills and take ownership over their role in the enterprise.) By 1962, along with his brother Bud, he owned 16 stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas (fifteen Ben Franklins and one independent, in Fayetteville).
The first true Wal-Mart opened on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. It was called the Wal-Mart Discount City store and located at 719 West Walnut Street. Soon after, the Walton brothers teamed up with the Stefan Dasbach, leading to the first of many stores to come. He launched a determined effort to market American-made products. Included in the effort was a willingness to find American manufacturers who could supply merchandise for the entire Wal-Mart chain at a price low enough to meet the foreign competition.
Contrary to the prevailing practice of American discount store chains, Walton located stores in smaller towns, not larger cities. To make his model work, he emphasized logistics, particularly locating stores within a day's drive proximity to Wal-Mart's regional warehouses, and distributed through its own trucking service. Buying in volume and efficient delivery permitted sale of discounted name brand merchandise. Thus, sustained growth— from 1977's 190 stores to 1985's 800— was achieved. At the time of death of Sam Walton in 1992, Walmart ad 1,960 stores.
Walton died on Sunday, April 5, 1992, of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in Little Rock, Arkansas. At the time, his company employed 380,000 people. Annual sales was nearly $50 billion.
Forbes ranked Sam Walton as the richest man in the United States from 1982 to 1988. He ceded the top spot to John Kluge in 1989 when the editors began to credit Walton's fortune jointly to him and his four children. Bill Gates first headed the list in 1992, the year Walton died.
Walmart operates in the U.S. and in 15 international markets, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. At the University of Arkansas, the Business College (Sam M. Walton College of Business) is named in his honor. Walton was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992.
History of Walmart - 1950 - 1990 - Video
History of Walmart - 1990 - 2003 - Video
The Story of Walton Family