Sam Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur who founded Walmart, one of the world’s largest retail chains.
He was born on March 29, 1918, in Kingfisher, Oklahoma to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy Lee. He lived with his parents on their farm until 1923, but due to financial constraints, his father went into farm mortgaging and worked for his brother’s company that was an agent for Metropolitan Life Insurance.
During the Great Depression, Thomas foreclosed on farms. The family, now with a second son named James born in 1921, moved from Oklahoma to various small towns in Missouri. They continued moving until settling in Shelbina, Missouri, where Sam attended eighth grade and became the youngest Eagle Scout in the state’s history. As an adult, Walton received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
Walton’s first job was delivering newspapers, and he later worked at his family’s farm, where he learned the value of hard work and the importance of cost-saving measures.
After serving in World War II, Walton opened his first retail store, a Ben Franklin franchise, in Newport, Arkansas. He later opened several more Ben Franklin stores, but his vision was to create a discount retail store that would offer low prices and a wide range of products, which led him to opening Walmart.
After leaving the military in 1945, Sam Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. He purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas, with the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law and $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain.
To ensure his success, Walton introduced several concepts that became crucial to his business. He offered prices that were as good as or better than stores in cities four hours away by car, which encouraged people to shop locally. He also made sure that the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods. His second store, the “Eagle” department store, was located down the street from his first Ben Franklin and next door to its main competitor in Newport.
Over three years, Walton’s sales volume grew from $80,000 to $225,000, drawing the attention of the landlord, P. K. Holmes, whose family had a history in retail. However, despite admiring Walton’s success, Holmes refused to renew the lease and instead purchased the store’s inventory and fixtures for $50,000, which Walton considered to be a fair price. The lack of a renewal option and the high rent, which was 5% of sales, were early business lessons for Walton.
Sam Walton, along with his wife Helen and father-in-law, managed to secure a new location for their store on the downtown square of Bentonville, Arkansas, with only one year left on their lease at the previous location. They negotiated the purchase of a small discount store and the building’s title, with the condition that they receive a 99-year lease to expand into the adjacent shop. However, the owner of the shop next door refused the offer six times, causing Walton to give up on Bentonville. It was only when his father-in-law paid the shop owner a final visit and offered $20,000 without Walton’s knowledge, that the deal was secured. With the money from the sale of the first store, they opened the new location with a one-day remodeling sale on May 9, 1950.
The Bentonville store was previously generating sales of $72,000, but within the first year of operation, under Walton’s leadership, the sales increased to $105,000. The sales continued to increase in subsequent years, reaching $140,000 and $175,000.
On July 2, 1962, the first Walmart store officially opened in Rogers, Arkansas, named the Wal-Mart Discount City store, situated at 719 West Walnut Street. Saml Walton embarked on a determined campaign to promote American-made goods, and this effort entailed locating manufacturers in America who could supply products for the entire Walmart chain at prices that could compete with foreign competition.
Over the years, Walton expanded Walmart’s reach across the United States, and by the time of his death in 1992, Walmart had become the world’s largest retailer, with over 1,700 stores in 50 states. Walton was known for his frugality and commitment to low prices, and he worked closely with his employees to create a corporate culture that valued hard work, innovation, and customer service.
Walton was also a philanthropist and believed in giving back to his community. He established the Walton Family Foundation, which has donated billions of dollars to various causes, including education, the arts, and environmental conservation.
Today, Walmart is still one of the largest retailers in the world, with over 10,000 stores in 27 countries. Sam Walton’s legacy continues to be felt throughout the company and the retail industry.
For a time, Sam Walton was the richest man in American. His family remains some of the richest in the United States for several consecutive years and has an estimated net worth around $240 billion. Sam Walton’s net worth was estimated to be approximately 240.6 billion as of January 2022
Samu Walton received numerous awards and recognition during his lifetime. Some of his notable awards and achievements are: