Samuel Moore "Sam" Walton was among the most versatile and brilliant businessmen of the world. He was the founder of one of the world's biggest general retail chain stores, Wal-Mart and Sam's club with his brother Bud Walton. Walton transformed the way people did retail shopping in United States. He also brought in great changes in the tactics of business. He dived into the retail business in 1945 and by the year the first Wal-Mart was opened in 1962, he was the proud owner of a chain of 15 variety stores in Arkansas. In the year 1990, Wal-Mart became the nation's top retailer in terms of sales. During his lifetime, with tremendous success, Walton was listed in the world's richest people and left an amazing wealth for his family when he died. Even post his death in 1992, the company continued to expand with the introduction of online commerce and stores all around the world. By 2001, there were over 4,500 Wal-Mart stores worldwide.
Sam Walton Childhood & Early Life
Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918 at Kingfisher, Oklahoma to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy “Nannie” Lee. His brother, James was born in 1921. He resided there with his family until 1923 and then moved to Chesterfield, Missouri where his father used to work as a mortgage man. His family kept on moving from one small town to the other for many years. When he was studying in Shelbina in eighth grade, Walton received the youngest Eagle Scout in the state's history. Later, he became a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He grew up in hard times and helped the family by performing various chores to meet the financial requirements of the family. Walton used to milk the family cow, bottle the surplus and deliver it to the customers. After the same he used to deliver newspapers on a paper route. With these, he also sold magazine subscriptions. When he graduated, he was awarded as the “Most Versatile Boy”.
On completion of the school, Walton went to the University of Missouri as an ROTC cadet. During this period, he also did numerous odd jobs like waiting tables in exchange for meals. Also, while his college was going on, he joined the Zeta Phi chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Walton was also appointed by the QEBH, which was a popular secret society on campus. He graduated in economics in 1940 and was elected as the “permanent president” of the class. Walton then became management trainee at JC Penney in Des Moines, Iowa, just after three days of completing graduation. He earned $75 a month being on this position. But he withdrew the job in 1942 in the expectations of entering into the military for service in World War II. Meanwhile, Walton then joined DuPont munitions plant near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Shortly, he joined the military in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps. He used to supervise security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps. Being on this post, he worked at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah. By the course of time, he attained the rank of captain.
The First Store
In 1945, after leaving the army, Walton opted for managing his first-ever variety store. Walton was just 26 years old then. With his father-in-law’s loan of $20,000 and his savings of $5,000, he bought a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. This store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain. From this store itself, Walton launched various concepts that proved to be of prime factors in his success. He made it a point that all the shelves of the store were always stocked with a large variety of products at cheaper rates. Also, he used to open his store for longer hours than the usual. Walton also established the scheme of offering discount merchandising by buying wholesale products from the supplier giving lowest prices. This attracted lot of customers as it was beneficial for the customers on the savings part. Simultaneously, his changes brought about considerable increase in sales, giving him tremendous profit. Walton also started negotiating the lower purchase prices because of the higher sales with the wholesalers on consecutive purchases. These strategies of Walton proved to very profitable in the Butler Brothers' six-state region. Another factor which added to the success of this store was its central location. When the store was taken by Walton in 1945, its sales was $72,000 in a year and by 1950, Walton turned the figure amazingly to $250,000. Also to restrict the expansion of Walton’s chief competitor the Sterling Store, he rented a nearby Kroger store which was inaugurated in 1950 by the name of the “Eagle” department store. When the time came to renew the lease of the store, its landlord, P.K. Holmes denied doing the same as the store was doing brilliant in sales, he wanted to pass it to his sons.
The Chain Of Stores
Walton continued to open numerousBen Franklin Stores with the helping hands of his brother, father-in-law and brother-in-law. He opened a store accompanying with his brother at a shopping center in Ruskin Heights, a suburb of Kansas City. Then he opened another in Arkansas. This store was not that successful as his previous stores. Walton then decided to center on the retail business apart from the shopping centers. He opened bigger stores naming them “Walton's Family Center”. His amazing mind came out with another great idea; he gave an opportunity to all the managers of becoming limited partners by investing in the store they manage and then investing a maximum of $1,000 in the new outlets. This scheme came out to be very exciting and motivating to the managers. By the year 1962, Walton and his brother had opened 16 variety stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas.
The First Wal-Mart
On 2nd July 1962, the first Wal-Mart store was inaugurated in Rogers, Arkansas and was named the Wal-Mart Discount City store. The store was located at 719 West Walnut Street. After a short time, Walton brothers became partners with the business-canny Stefan Dasbach. He did considerable efforts to find out American manufacturers who could supply merchandise at a lower price in all the Wal-Mart stores in order to meet the foreign competition.
On February 14, 1943, Sam Walton married Helen Robson. The couple had four children: Samuel Robson (1944), John Thomas (1946), James Carr (1948), and Alice Louise (1949).
Sam Walton died on April 5, 1992 suffering from multiple myeloma, a kind of blood cancer, in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sam Walton was ranked as the richest man in the United States from 1982 to 1988, by the Forbes magazine.
In 1992, Walton was bestowed upon with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the then President George H. W. Bush. Same year, he was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame.
At the University of Arkansas, the Business College (Sam M. Walton College of Business) has been named in his honor.
Post his death, in 1998, Walton’s name was included in Time's list of 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.
Wal-Mart stores operate in developed nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada. It also operates in poorer, developing nations and commonwealths like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico.