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.
If we work together, we'll lower the cost of living for everyone...we'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better life.
Today, "saving people money so they can live better" is the driving force behind everything we do.
10 Rules for Building a Better Business
Sam Walton believed running a successful business boils down to 10 simple rules and they helped Walmart become the global leader it is today. We continue to apply them to every part of our business. Read his 10 rules for building a better business »
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.
Walmart's history is more than just the stores we've built, 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’ve grown and how our leadership has changed the retail industry.
Sam Walton's strategy is built on an unshakeable foundation: the lowest prices anytime, anywhere.
On July 2, 1962, Sam Walton opens the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas.
The Walton family owns 24 stores, ringing up $12.7 million in sales.
The company officially incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Walmart Goes National
In the 1970s, a decade of incredible growth, "Mr. Sam" begins to take Walmart national, providing his vision's widespread appeal.
Walmart becomes a publicly traded company. The first stock is sold at $16.50 per share.
The first distribution center and Home Office open in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Walmart is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (WMT). With 51 stores, Walmart records sales of $78 million.
Inspired by a visit to a Korean manufacturing facility, Sam Walton introduces the Walmart cheer.
The Walmart Foundation is established.
Decade of Firsts
In the 1980s, the first Sam's Club opens, serving small businesses and individuals, and the first Walmart Supercenter opens, combining a supermarket with general merchandise.
The Walton family establishes the Walton Family Foundation.
Walmart reaches $1 billion in annual sales, faster than any other company at that time.
Walmart has 276 stores and employs 21,000 associates.
The first Sam’s Club opens in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
Walmart replaces cash registers with computerized point-of-sale systems, enabling fast and accurate checkout.
Sam Walton does the hula on Wall Street, making good on a promise to associates after the company achieves a pre-tax profit of 8% for the previous fiscal year.
The company installs 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 opens in Washington, Missouri, combining general merchandise and a full-scale supermarket to provide one-stop shopping convenience.
David Glass is named chief executive officer.
America's Top Retailer
By 1990, Walmart is the nation's No. 1 retailer. As the Walmart Supercenter redefines convenience and one-stop shopping, Everyday Low Prices goes international.
Through a joint venture with Cifra, a Mexican retail company, Walmart goes global, opening a Sam’s Club in Mexico City.
While receiving the Medal of Freedom, Sam Walton articulates the company’s mission of saving people money so they can live better, shortly before passing away at age 74.
Rob Walton becomes chairman of the board.
Walmart employs 371,000 associates in 1,928 stores and clubs.
Walmart celebrates its first $1 billion sales week.
Walmart expands into Canada with the purchase of 122 Woolco stores.
Walmart opens its first stores in China.
The company celebrates its first $100 billion sales year.
The Neighborhood Market format is introduced with three stores in Arkansas.
Walmart enters the United Kingdom with the acquisition of Asda.
Walmart enters 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. succeeds David Glass as CEO.
Walmart.com is founded, allowing U.S. customers to shop online.
Walmart employs more than 1.1 million associates in 3,989 stores and clubs worldwide.
For the first time, Walmart tops the Fortune 500 ranking of America's largest companies.
Walmart enters the Japanese market through its investment in Seiyu.
Walmart takes a leading role in disaster relief, contributing $18 million and 2,450 truckloads of supplies to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Walmart makes 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 introduces its $4 generic-drug prescription program.
Walmart.com launches its Site to Store service, enabling customers to make a purchase online and pick up merchandise in stores.
Mike Duke becomes CEO.
Walmart enters Chile with the acquisition of a majority stake in D&S S.A.
For the first time, Walmart exceeds $400 billion in annual sales.
People-Led and Tech-Empowered
Walmart commits to serving customers in a changing retail environment, leveraging both associates and technology to make it happen.
Bharti Walmart, a joint venture, opens its first store in India.
Walmart commits $2 billion through the end of 2015 to help end hunger in the United States.
Walmart launches a global commitment to sustainable agriculture, aiming to strengthen local farmers and economies, while providing customers access to affordable, high-quality food.
Walmart expands its business into South Africa by acquiring 51% of Massmart Holdings Limited.
With the acquisition of Massmart in South Africa, Walmart surpasses 10,000 retail units around the world.
Walmart celebrates 50 years of helping people save money so they can live better.
Walmart U.S. announces it will hire any honorably discharged veteran within their first year off active duty. Walmart projects hiring over 100,000 veterans in the next five years.
Walmart acquires Bharti Walmart Private Limited, including the Best Price Modern Wholesale cash and carry business in India.
Walmart commits to buying $250 billion in goods manufactured in the United States over the next 10 years.
Walmart opens its first store in the District of Columbia.
Doug McMillon succeeds Mike Duke as CEO.
The company employs 2.3 million associates worldwide and serves more than 200 million customers each week at more than 11,000 stores in 27 countries.
Walmart announces a $2.7 billion investment over two years in its U.S. workforce, including raising its minimum wage to $9 an hour, implementing new training programs, and giving associates more control over their schedules.
Walmart acquires 100% stake in Yihaodian, an e-commerce business in China, up from the 51% stake since 2012.
Rob Walton retires as chairman of the board of directors for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. He continues to serve as a director.
Greg Penner succeeds Rob Walton as chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Walmart opens its Culinary & Innovation Center in Bentonville to develop and test new and innovative products.
Walmart Pay, a fast, easy and secure way for customers to make purchases with their smart phones, becomes a popular in-store payment method.
Online retailer Jet.com becomes part of the Walmart family with the two companies joining forces to save customers even more time and money. Hayneedle, a subsidiary of Jet.com, is also included in this merger.
Walmart opens its first training Academy in South Carolina, with 200 total locations planned at stores across the U.S.
More than 1.2 million Walmart and Sam’s Club associates get a pay increase as part of the company’s two-year, $2.7 billion investment in its people.
Walmart and JD.com, China’s largest e-commerce company by revenue, form a strategic alliance to better serve consumers across China, covering both online and offline retail.
The company makes a commitment to become the most trusted retailer through hitting specific goals by 2025, all focused on sustainability, empowering its associates and improving the lives of people around the world.
John Furner becomes Sam's Club's new president and CEO.
Walmart launches free two-day shipping on more than 2 million items, no membership required.
Walmart launches Store No 8, a tech incubator, with a focus to drive commerce forward and transform the future of retail.
Walmart launches Project Gigaton, asking suppliers to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by 1 gigaton. The company also sets a new goal to reduce its consumables chemical footprint by 10% by 2022.
Leading the Future of Retail
Walmart continues to pave the way in retail innovation, benefiting customers and associates alike by leveraging new technology and learning from its expanding family of brands.
The company changes its legal name from Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to Walmart Inc.
Walmart announces plans to increase its starting wage rate for all U.S. hourly associates to $11, expand maternity and parental leave benefits and provide a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates. More than 1 million associates are expected to benefit from the combined wage and benefit changes.
Judith McKenna becomes President and CEO of Walmart International.
The company takes thoughtful and deliberate actions to serve customers and position its International business for long-term growth with the acquisition of Flipkart in India,divestiture of its business in Brazil and proposed merger of Asda and Sainsburys in the U.K.
We’ve come a long way since 1962. As our business has changed, so has our logo.
1962 - 1964
Walmart launched without a true logo. In fact, for the first two years, when the Walmart name appeared in print, the font and style were chosen at the whim of the printer.
1964 - 1981
In 1964, the company selected a font. This “Frontier Font Logo” was the first official and first consistently used logo in our history. It survived for nearly 20 years.
1968 - 1981
Along with the first official logo, we developed a Discount City mark. This mark appeared in print advertising and in-store signage, as well as on employee uniforms and smocks. However, it was never used on exterior building signage or in annual reports.
1981 - 1992
After nearly 20 years, the company dropped the frontier feel of the logo and introduced a fresh new look for Walmart.
1992 - 2008
In 1992, we replaced the hyphen with a star. This logo can still be seen on many of our North American storefronts as we continue to transition hundreds of stores to the newest logo.
2008 - present
In 2008, Walmart underwent the most significant logo change to date, introducing a new font and the iconic spark.
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.