From Merchant to Museum Manager: Peggy is Walmart’s Storyteller

By Emily Schmid
March 3, 2015
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Editor’s note: More than 2.2 million associates bring our stores and clubs to life every day. Sparking Conversation is a series where we get to know these individuals. Peggy Hamilton is manager of The Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Why did you choose Walmart?
I started in 1971 at the Nevada, Missouri, store, which was brand-new at the time. My husband and I had relocated from southern California. We had four little children, and it became necessary for me to work. I was the ladies’ apparel department manager for about four years.
How did you get to where you are today?
Sam Walton used to visit our store a lot, and he always talked to the associates before he ever talked to management. He saw something in me that he thought would be a benefit to the buying office: I worked in the stores and understood the customers. I then moved to the home office as a buyer. I worked in several departments, always in apparel: ladies’ accessories, dress coats, maternity, girls’ apparel, and then lingerie, robes and loungewear. After 20 years, I retired and opened my own business. But I got bored and came back.

You’re the manager of The Walmart Museum – what does your role entail?
I touch just about everything here. I manage the Spark Café and Walton’s 5&10. I’m part of the planning process as we think about programs and events. So I get a little buying, and also a little working with people. If the day is kind of tough, I love to go downstairs and talk to people and tell them our story.

What do you like best about your job?

When I was a buyer, I liked the challenge of finding new items or trends and developing those for whatever area I was working in. When you bring in something that’s successful, it’s one of the biggest highs you can have. One year, I came across press-on fingernails on a trip to New York. I brought them to the home office, and we put them in stores. They took off!

Now, one thing that I love is that sometimes somebody will come in [to the museum] and ask, “What would Sam say if he were here today about how this company is being run?” I always say, I think he’d be pretty proud of us because we’re the largest in the world, and we’ve maintained our culture, which isn’t easy. Yes, I think he’d change some things because he believed in change, but for the most part, I think he’d be alright. [Those who ask that question] always have skeptical looks on their faces, so I make a point to be present when they’re finished [with their tour]. The light in their eyes changes from skeptical to wow. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than that.

You’ve retired once before. How long do you think you’ll continue working?
As long as I can. It’s been good for me to come back to work. I’ve discovered that I actually don’t believe in retirement. It keeps your mind sharper, makes you more aware of what’s happening around you. We have a great story to tell here, and I don’t foresee retiring again, ever, unless health-wise I have to.