50 Years of Walmart: A Story Still in the Making

2012 Walmart Shareholders' Meeting

By Rosalind Brewer, President & CEO, Sam's Club

June 01, 2012

2012 Walmart Shareholders' Meeting

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Hello, Sam's Club! So, this is what it feels like? I have come to Shareholders for several years now, and Sam's Club, you have always distinguished yourselves! 

And now, I have the honor of being a part of this truly amazing Sam's Club team. I love your energy, Sam’s Club!

You know, the excitement and passion that we see here today translates – in our clubs and to our members – every single day. And that translates to the bottom line. We have now had seven quarters with consecutive increases at Sam's Club. The first quarter of 2012 was the highest first quarter in eight years.

We set out this year to improve merchandise quality, be price leaders and create an even more dynamic shopping experience, and it's paying off. Our Membership Experience Scores are now approaching 9 percent. That's an all-time high. Temkin also named us number one in customer service. This year, we also had our first $200 million club in the U.S. You did it, Sam's Club.

This kind of success is unique – and it is possible – only because of the foundation that was laid for us 50 years ago. Sam's Club was named for our founder, and because of Sam Walton’s vision, today, Walmart and Sam's Club are part of the fabric of our country – and woven throughout cultures around the world.

So, in honor of our 50th anniversary, let's walk through the moments that have defined us as a company... and for much of the last 50 years.


For those of us who remember the 1960s,  it was a time of intense change:

   • The Vietnam War erupted,

   • The British Invasion brought us the Beatles,

   • Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream,

   • Neil Armstrong walked on the moon…

And in Rogers, Arkansas, the first Walmart opened at 719 Walnut Avenue. It was 1962, and this was a new kind of self-service discount store. It would revolutionize the retail industry and give rural Americans the same access to affordable, quality merchandise once found only in cities.


As we moved into the 1970s, American culture was dominated by Star Wars, Stevie Wonder, the Olympics and the emergence of real technological change.

And Walmart's upward trajectory continued. We were growing as much as five times faster than other U.S. retailers. That was because Walmart embraced innovative technology – and set the industry standard – by building distribution centers and a highly efficient truck fleet.


And now, the 1980s: the Berlin Wall, Pac Man, Michael Jackson, Mikhail Gorbachev.

And …the very first Supercenter. It opened in 1988, and once again, Walmart changed the retail industry forever.

But I like to think of the 1980s as the decade of Sam's Club. The first Sam's Club opened in 1983, in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Today, we have one of the largest and most successful warehouse channels in the world.

As America moved into the decade of the '90s, we were also moved by Nelson Mandela and change in South Africa, by the music of U2, and even the movie Titanic.

And by this time, Walmart was officially the largest retailer in the country. It was time to branch out, and Walmart opened its first store internationally. It was a Sam's Club.

By the end of the decade, Walmart would be the world’s largest private employer and become truly global, moving into Brazil, Canada, Argentina and more.


Now, to the 21st century: the new millennium, Harry Potter, Beyonce, the Discovery Space Shuttle, hybrid cars.

The new century dawned with great optimism and celebration.  And this is when Walmart reached a milestone of 1,000 Supercenters.

We also began to use size and scale to change lives. Walmart was among the first to bring relief to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We launched our sweeping sustainability initiatives around the world and began using our network of suppliers to make a difference.

That meant we were also changing lives in a very big way at Sam's Club. We focused intently on our members and small business owners as the economy declined.


And today, in this decade, 50 years after the first store opened, Walmart is the number-one grocer in the country and the number-one retailer in the world. We are in 27 countries …with more than 10,000 stores and Sam's Clubs.


This is much more than the story of our past. This is the story of what makes us who we are. And it's a story still in the making.

We have a global opportunity to serve the next generation of customers and members who – just like the people who walked through the doors of that first store in Rogers – need us to help them to save and have a better life.

Today, they're connecting to us through smartphones and social media. They're shopping with us in clubs from Sacramento, California, to Shenzhen, China. They have higher expectations for quality, value and trust than ever before. They count on us to stay out in front as we create the Next Generation Walmart.

• We will recruit and develop the best talent... 

• We will win in ecommerce...

• We will create even more opportunities for associates

• We will develop new ways to deliver value... 

… and ....

• We will continue to make a difference on big global issues: in women's empowerment, in fighting hunger, and for the environment.

Sam Walton made history by changing retail over the last 50 years. Now it's up to us to make history once again and change retail for the next 50 years.

After all, we are 2.2 million associates strong. That's a lot of people power.

No matter the decade, our people will always define us. Because we are Walmart, and we are Sam's Club.