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Brand Builders: Walmart

Walmart serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week—in retail outlets, online and on mobile devices. Walmart operates under 69 different banners in 27 countries. With fiscal year 2012 sales of approximately $444 billion, Walmart employs 2.2 million associates worldwide.


Walmart was founded in 1962, with the opening of the first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Ark. The company incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., on Oct. 31, 1969. The company’s shares began trading on OTC markets in 1970 and were listed on the New York Stock Exchange two years later.

The company grew to 276 stores in 11 states by the end of the decade. In 1983, the company opened its first Sam’s Club membership warehouse and in 1988 opened the first supercenter—now the company’s dominant format—featuring a complete grocery in addition to general merchandise. Walmart became an international company in 1991 when it opened its first Sam’s Club near Mexico City.

Most people think discount retailing began in 1962, the year that Kmart, Target and Walmart first opened. But actually, the chain of variety stores Sam Walton owned during the 1950s faced stiff competition from many regional discount stores.

1962 – Walmart begins

Before opening Walmart, Sam Walton traveled the country studying everything he could about discount retailing. He became convinced American consumers wanted a new type of store. Trusting his vision, Walton and his wife, Helen, put up 95 percent of the money for the first Walmart store in Rogers, Ark.

1972 – Walmart goes public

Discounters such as Kmart quickly expanded in the 1960s, while Walton only had enough money to build 15 Walmart stores. In 1972, Walmart stock was offered for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange. With this infusion of capital, the company grew to 276 stores in 11 states by the end of the decade.

The 1980s – Walmart comes of age

In 1983, the first Sam’s Club members-warehouse store opened. The first Supercenter opened in 1988, featuring a complete grocery and 36 departments of general merchandise. By 1989, there were 1,402 Walmart stores and 123 Sam’s Club locations. Employment had increased tenfold. Sales had grown from $1 billion in 1980, to $26 billion.

The 21st century – one of the most successful retailers in the world

Today, 10,185 stores and club locations in 27 countries employ 2.2 million associates, serving more than 176 million customers a year. Walmart’s history is an example of how to manage growth without losing sight of your values. The company’s most basic value has always been customer service.


Saving people money to help them live better was the goal Sam Walton envisioned when he opened the first Walmart. Today, this mission is more important than ever to the company’s customers and members around the world. Walmart works hard in all its markets to deliver on this promise, operating at the same level of integrity and respect that “Mr. Sam” put in place. It’s because of these values and culture that Walmart continues to make a difference in the lives of its customers, members and associates. —biographical info provided by Walmart