Sam Walton became a supergiant in the retail industry. Walmart and Sam’s Club stores worldwide, as well as Walmart.com, all started with the genius ideas of “Mr. Sam,” as he was affectionately referred to. His ideas of offering low prices and great service started when he took over the management of his first franchise variety store at the age of 26 years old in 1945. Instead of hiking up prices, Sam focused on finding cheaper suppliers and was able to discount his products; he earned his living based on volume instead of profit margin. Within thirty months of being in business, he was able to repay the loan of $25,000 to open the store, as well as make at least $35,000 in profits.
Five years later, Sam hit a roadblock. After building one of the most successful variety stores in the region, he lost his leasing space. His lease was up and there was no renewal standard (as was the norm at that time). So he, his wife, and his children moved from Newport, Arkansas to Bentonville. There, he opened Walton’s 5&10. Like the variety store, this was a success as well. Then, at the age of 44, Sam opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas.
In 1980, Walmart hit its first year of $1 billion in sales, faster than any other company at the time. There were 267 stores and Walmart employed over 21,000 associates. Then, in 1983, Sam opened the first Sam’s Club in Midwest City, Oklahoma. The store was set up as a wholesale membership club, “stocking the right products and purchasing them in large quantities, passing on the savings to [their] members.” By 1990, Walmart was the number one retailer in the United States and decided to go international, opening stores throughout the ’90s in Mexico City, Canada, China, and the United Kingdom.
All the way until his death in 1992, Sam Walton maintained his beliefs in taking care of his customers and associates. He took the road less travelled and ignored the mainstream rules that he believed didn’t work for him. Walmart continues to teach Sam’s 10 rules for building a business to the management at each store. Focusing on doing right by the associates and customers alike is what really drove Sam’s success.