The history of Walmart is long and successful. Beginning in a small Arkansas town back in the early 1960s, Walmart has become the largest big box retailer in the world with close to 9,000 locations as of this writing. And it all began with one man who had retail in his blood.
Walmart's history can be dated back to the late 40s, which is when founder Sam Walton began his retail career with a stint at an Iowa JC Penny. He then moved to Arkansas and obtained an operational management position at a variety store in the town of Newport. In 1951, after consultations with his wife Helen, Sam opened up Walton's Five and Dime in Bentonville, Arkansas.
But Sam wasn't content running a small variety store, despite its popularity. So he took it one step further by expanding the concept into something larger with the same types of deep discounts and customer service he offered at his Five and Dime. Hence, the opening of the first Walmart in 1962 in the nearby Arkansas town of Rogers. The response to the Walmart was more than Sam expected. During the remainder of the 60s, Walmarts began to pop-up across Arkansas. In 1969, Sam expanded his operations with stores in Missouri and Oklahoma. By the early 1970s, Walmart had become an incorporated and publicly traded company.
The 70s were a period of strong growth for the company, thanks in part to the organization's multiple stock splits in 1971, 1972 and 1975. Walmart began appearing in more Southeast states and by the middle of the decade had reached Texas and the Midwest. It was also during this period in history when Sam introduced in-store pharmacies and auto service centers into his stores. By the end of the 70s, Walmart operated 276 locations strong with sales of over $1.2 billion.
The 1980s saw Sam take his concepts and beliefs a step further with the introduction of the membership-only Sam's Club in Midwest City, Oklahoma. The decade also introduced People Greeters in all its locations, and the first Walmart Supercenter in Washington and Missouri, which sold groceries as well as their normal inventories. By the end of the 1980s, Walmart had stores in 29 states and sales of $16 billion.
Walmart faced both triumph and tragedy in the 1990s. After being named the number one retailer in America, Walmart would open stores not only on the East and West Coasts, but expand into Central and South America. By the end of the decade, Walmart would be in all 50 states as well as Canada, Mexico and China. However, this good news was marred by the deaths of Sam Walton in 1992 and his brother and co-founder Bud Walton in 1995. Today, Walmart is the number one employer in the world with 2.1 million associate and 1.4 million of those in the U.S. alone. In 2010, the retail giant's global sales reached $400 billion with $15 billion in profit. In addition to its original international locations, Walmart now has stores operating in China and Great Britain.