Our Story

Our History

Since the first Walmart store opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas, we've been dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our customers. Our business is the result of Sam Walton's visionary leadership, along with generations of associates focused on helping customers and communities save money and live better. This rich heritage defines who we are and what we do today.

Sam Walton

Walmart as we know it today evolved from Sam Walton’s goals for great value and great customer service. “Mr. Sam,” as he was known, believed in leadership through service. This belief that true leadership depends on willing service was the principle on which Walmart was built, and drove the decisions the company has made for the past 50 years. So much of Walmart’s history is tied to the story of Sam Walton himself, and so much of our future will be rooted in Mr. Sam’s principles.

The Road to Walmart

Sam Walton was born in 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In 1942, at the age of 24, he joined the military. He married Helen Robson in 1943. When his military service ended in 1945, Sam and Helen moved to Iowa and then to Newport, Arkansas. During this time, Sam gained early retail experience, eventually operating his own variety store. 

In 1950, the Waltons left Newport for Bentonville, where Sam opened Walton’s 5&10 on the downtown square. They chose Bentonville because Helen wanted small-town living, and Sam could take advantage of the different hunting seasons that living at the corner of four states had to offer.

Inspired by the early success of his dime store, and driven to bring even greater opportunity and value to his customers, Sam opened the first Walmart in 1962 at the age of 44 in Rogers, Arkansas.

Changing the Face of Retail

Sam's competitors thought his idea that a successful business could be built around offering lower prices and great service would never work. As it turned out, the company's success exceeded even Sam's expectations. The company went public in 1970, and the proceeds financed a steady expansion of the business. 

Sam credited the rapid growth of Walmart not just to the low costs that attracted his customers, but also to his associates. He relied on them to give customers the great shopping experience that would keep them coming back. Sam shared his vision for the company with associates in a way that was nearly unheard of in the industry. He made them partners in the success of the company, and firmly believed that this partnership was what made Walmart great.

As the stores grew, so did Sam's aspirations. In addition to bringing new approaches and technologies to retail, he also experimented with new store formats—including Sam's Club and the Walmart Supercenter—and even made the decision to take Walmart into Mexico. Sam's fearlessness in offering lower prices and bringing Walmart's value to customers in the U.S. and beyond set a standard for the company that lives on to this day. His strong commitment to service and to the values that help individuals, businesses and the country succeed earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

It was during Sam's acceptance remarks that he articulated what would come to be Walmart's official company purpose.

Today, "saving people money so they can live better" is the driving force behind everything we do.

Mr. Sam's Legacy

Sam Walton died in 1992, shortly after receiving the Medal of Freedom, but his legacy lives on. To this day, Walmart remains a leader in the retail industry. We are committed not just to expanding the business to better serve our customers, but also to improving the communities we serve through our efforts to constantly improve what we do and how we do it, and through the impacts we're able to achieve through the Walmart Foundation. Through this daily dedication to our business and our customers, we honor Mr. Sam.


Experience Walmart's History

Walmart's history is more than just the stores we've build, the partnerships we've made and the customers we've served. So much of our history is in the details. See how Walmart began, how we grew and how our leadership has changed the retail industry.

1960s: Retail Revolution

Sam Walton's strategy was built on an unshakeable foundation: The Lowest Prices Anytime, Anywhere.

On July 2, 1962, Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Ark.

The Walton family owned 24 stores, ringing up $12.7 million in sales.

The company officially incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

1970s: Walmart Goes National

In the 1970s, a decade of incredible growth, "Mr. Sam" began to take Walmart national, providing his vision's widespread appeal.

Walmart became a publicly traded company. The first stock was sold at $16.50 per share.Walmart home office sign early history

The first distribution center and Home Office opened in Bentonville, Ark.

Walmart was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (WMT). With 51 stores, Walmart recorded sales of $78 million.

Inspired by a visit to a Korean manufacturing facility, Sam Walton introduced the Walmart cheer.

The Walmart Foundation was established.

1980s: Decade of Firsts

In the 1980s, the first Sam's Club opened, serving small businesses and individuals, and the first Walmart Supercenter opened, combining a supermarket with general merchandise.

Walmart reached $1 billion in annual sales, faster than any other company at that time.
Walmart had 276 stores and employed 21,000 associates.


The first Sam’s Club opened in Midwest City, Okla.

Walmart replaced cash registers with computerized point-of-sale systems, enabling fast and accurate checkout.

Sam Walton did the hula on Wall Street, making good on a promise to associates after the company achieved a pre-tax profit of 8% for the previous fiscal year.

The company installed the largest private satellite communication system in the U.S., linking the company's operations through voice, data and video communication.


The first Walmart Supercenter opened in Washington, Mo., combining general merchandise and a full-scale supermarket to provide one-stop shopping convenience.

David Glass was named CEO.

1990s: America's Top Retailer

By 1990, Walmart was the nation's number-one retailer. As the Walmart Supercenter redefined convenience and one-stop shopping, Every Day Low Prices went international.

Through a joint venture with Cifra, a Mexican retail company, Walmart went global, opening a Sam’s Club in Mexico City. 


While receiving the Medal of Freedom, Sam Walton articulated the company’s mission of saving people money so they can live better, shortly before passing away at age 74.

Rob Walton became chairman of the board.

Walmart employed 371,000 associates in 1,928 stores and clubs.

Walmart celebrated its first $1 billion sales week.

Walmart expanded into Canada with the purchase of 122 Woolco stores.

Walmart opened its first stores in China.


The company celebrated its first $100 billion sales year.

The Neighborhood Market format was introduced with three stores in Arkansas.

Walmart entered the United Kingdom with the acquisition of ASDA.

2000s: New Millennium

Walmart entered the new millennium dedicated to offering customers a seamless shopping experience, whether they are online, in a store or on a mobile device.

H. Lee Scott, Jr. succeeded David Glass as CEO.

Walmart.com was founded, allowing U.S. customers to shop online.

Walmart employed more than 1.1 million associates in 3,989 stores and clubs worldwide.

For the first time, Walmart topped the Fortune 500 ranking of America's largest companies.

Walmart entered the Japanese market through its investment in Seiyu.

Walmart took a leading role in disaster relief, contributing $18 million and 2,450 truckloads of supplies to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Walmart made a major commitment to environmental sustainability, announcing goals to create zero waste, use only renewable energy and sell products that sustain people and the environment. 

Walmart introduced its $4 generic-drug prescription program. 

Walmart.com launched Site to Store service, enabling customers to make a purchase online and pick up merchandise in stores.

Mike Duke became CEO.

Walmart entered Chile with the acquisition of a majority stake in D&S S.A.

For the first time, Walmart exceeded $400 billion in annual sales.

Bharti Walmart, a joint venture, opened its first store in India.

Walmart committed $2 billion through the end of 2015 to help end hunger in the United States.

Walmart launched a global commitment to sustainable agriculture, aiming to strengthen local farmers and economies, while providing customers access to affordable, high-quality food.

With the acquisition of MassMart in South Africa, Walmart surpassed 10,000 retail units around the world. 

Walmart celebrated 50 years of helping people save money so they can live better.

Doug McMillon succeeded Mike Duke as CEO.

The company employs 2.2 million associates worldwide and serves more than 200 million customers each week at more than 11,000 stores in 27 countries.

The Walmart Museum

When Sam Walton opened his 5&10 on the Bentonville town square in 1950, he had no idea he'd planted the seeds for what would become the global leader in retail, saving millions of people money so they could live better. Today, that humble little dime store is the location of the Walmart Museum and offers a family-friendly experience featuring a world-class exhibit gallery, Walton's 5&10, and the Spark Café Soda Fountain.

Interactive Exhibit Gallery

Step through the store and into a collection of images, items and information on this history of Walmart and the Walton family from over the years. This multi-room gallery showcases Sam Walton's life and leadership in making Walmart into a company that helps customers save money and live better.

Visitors can look, touch and explore through a series of family-friendly, interactive displays. All the exhibits are designed as giant scrapbooks that tell the story of Walmart through words, images, artifacts and interactive displays like our virtual tour of Sam Walton's old office and our map featuring information on customers, stores, suppliers and associates from around the world. We've even got Mr. Sam's trusty old Ford F-150 parked in the gallery.

Walton's 5 & 10

A visit to Walton’s 5&10 is like stepping back in time. Visitors can experience a piece of Sam Walton’s history in a real, functional storefront setting. The store boasts original floor tiles and an original tin ceiling, as well as toys, candy and books straight out of an earlier era. 

The Spark Café Soda Fountain

The Spark Café is an old-fashioned soda fountain where visitors can enjoy ice cream, sweet treats and beverages while taking in the beautiful and historic Bentonville Square. The music, movies and ice cream floats will take you back to a simpler, more carefree time.

To plan your trip, visit WalmartMuseum.com for more information.