A Closer Look at the History of Walmart: Timeline and Facts

A Closer Look at the History of Walmart: Timeline and Facts

January 28, 2024
Author: Hamza

With over 11,500 stores across 28 countries and a solid eCommerce presence, Walmart is known as one of the world's biggest and most successful retail corporations. Today, Walmart has a net worth of over $425 billion, but the corporation is still committed to its founder Sam Walton's mission: help people save money so they can live better.

Almost everyone knows what Walmart is, but the real thing to learn is how it came into existence and managed to become a multinational and billion-dollar business. That's what we will discuss in today's article. We will trace down the complete history of Walmart and highlight important facts you should know about. So, let's get started!

  1. Where Does Walmart Stand Today?
  2. Why Walmart Stand Out as the Best Retailer?
  3. Establishment of Walmart – The Beginning of a Retail Revolution
  4. History of Walmart: A Complete Timeline Overview
  5. Reasons Behind Walmart's Global Success
  6. Setbacks Faced by Walmart
  7. Wrapping Up

Where Does Walmart Stand Today?

Walmart is on an ever-growing trajectory and breaking new ground with every passing year. In 2023 alone, Walmart's annual revenue was $611.289 billion – an increase of 6.73% from 2022.

The main statistics of Walmart as of January 2024 are as follows:

  1. 11,523 stores in 28 countries
  2. 4,700 stores in the U.S.
  3. 600 Sam's Club retail membership stores
  4. 260 million weekly shoppers
  5. Billion-dollar e-commerce presence ($82.1 billion online sales in 2023)
  6. Net worth of over $425 billion
  7. 90% of Americans reside within 10 miles of a Walmart store.
  8. Tops the list of Top 50 Global Retailers of 2023 ranking.

Simply put, Walmart is the world's dominating and largest retail corporation that operates everything from grocery stores and supermarkets to hypermarkets, e-commerce websites, department and discount stores, and much more. Now, the company is even leveraging technological advancements and offering the Scan & Go mobile app, self-checkout register, and other similar innovations.

Why Walmart Stand Out as the Best Retailer?

The sensational, successful history of Walmart and its market dominance for decades is proof of the company's commitment to providing affordable products to customers. For instance, Walmart operates with the Everyday Low Pricing (EDLP) strategy, where it keeps prices of products consistently low instead of providing frequent discounts and sales.

The other key reasons behind Walmart's market dominance are as follows:

1. Top-notch Supply Chain Management

Walmart smartly handles its supply chain management. It has set up a comprehensive inventory management system, which involves advanced technologies to handle stock levels, reduce out-of-stock situations, and minimize waste. This approach ensures that all Walmart stores remain stocked and offer all the essential products.

2. Exceptional Customer Service

Walmart is reputed for its exceptional customer service. The main highlight is its 90-day return policy without receipt, which allows customers to exchange/return products easily. Besides that, its store associates are very knowledgeable and friendly. In addition, the company keeps offering training programs to its employees to improve customer service.

3. Competitive Low Prices

Another reason behind Walmart's market dominance is its low prices. Ever since the launch of its first store, Walmart has been committed to offering low-priced, quality products to customers. In the background, the company buys products in bulk at a negotiated rate with the suppliers. Besides that, the company's well-structured store network, distribution centers, and high logistics capabilities also help reduce the cost of products.

4. Global Presence

Walmart has not limited its business to the US only. Today, Walmart has 11,500 stores across 28 countries, including China, Germany, UK, Mexico, Canada, and similar others.

5. Strategic Approach for e-Commerce

Walmart holds a solid position in the e-commerce market. Its next-day delivery, Walmart+ membership, and similar other aspects allow customers to easily get all the products at their homes. In fact, online sales make up 15% of total Walmart sales.

Establishment of Walmart – The Beginning of a Retail Revolution

It won't be wrong to term the establishment of Walmart as the beginning of the retail revolution. Sam Walton, with his management team, opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, on July 2, 1962.

It was an experiment by Sam Walton with a focus on separation from that time's big existing retailers, especially Kmart and Sears. Despite being an experiment, Walmart managed to quickly stand out due to its unique store concepts and strategic brand-building areas, such as:

  1. Emphasis on price controls (by doing the purchase and selling of low-cost imported goods).
  2. Customer-centric advertising campaigns (mainly related to direct mail ads).
  3. Setting warehouses close to the stores for cost-effective and convenient distribution.

All the above measures helped Walmart grab the customers' trust.

This empowered the company to start opening new stores beyond Arkansas, mostly across the deeper American South. Within two decades, the history of Walmart added another branch with the opening of the first Walmart superstore (called Sam's Club) in 1983 and its first phase-in of Walmart Supercenters in 1988.

Walmart got the title of the "largest retailer in the U.S." by 1990. This also empowered the company to open its branches across the border, such as Mexico, the UK, Canada, China, and Germany.

In 1995, 3 years after Sam Walton's death, Walmart managed to double its sales. In fact, the company's management took the risk of borrowing money to open more superstores. Although the company's debt piled up, it was soon paid off due to the success of those superstores.

In 1999, Walmart was not only the US's largest private employer but also the largest across the world. Besides that, it also gained the title of the "wealthiest company in the world" in 2001 after surpassing Exxon-Mobile. However, Walmart couldn't hold the top ranks for long due to other emerging companies, like Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.

History of Walmart: A Complete Timeline Overview

Above, we had a brief glimpse of the history of Walmart and some of the main events that happened over the years. Let's now present the complete timeline of the history of Walmart to clarify the company's past, present, and potential:

  1. 1962: Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas, US.
  2. 1967: The company launched 24 stores in Arkansas.
  3. 1970: Walmart corporation became a publicly traded company.
  4. 1972: Walmart was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
  5. 1979: Walmart turned into a billion-dollar company.
  6. 1980: Walmart reached the fastest $1 billion in annual sales.
  7. 1990: Walmart became the largest retailer in the US.
  8. 1991: Walmart opened its first store internationally in Mexico City.
  9. 1992: Walmart introduced the "Supercenters" concept, a complete grocery store along with general merchandise.
  10. 1996: Walmart launched its first store in China.
  11. 1999: Walmart became the world's largest private employer.
  12. 2000: Walmart launched the "Walmart.com" website for customers to purchase online.
  13. 2001: Walmart became the world's largest company in terms of sales revenues.
  14. 2005: Walmart initiated a sustainability initiative, which aimed to sell sustainable products, create zero waste, and much more.
  15. 2016: Walmart introduced Walmart Pay, a secure, fast, and easy way to use smartphones to make in-store payments.
  16. 2019: Walmart launched next-day delivery for orders made online in the US.
  17. 2020: Walmart introduced Walmart+, which is a membership program to offer members free deliveries of their orders, fuel discounts, and much more.
  18. 2021: Walmart started testing autonomous vehicles, fintech, and drone delivery.
  19. 2022: Walmart increased its capability to provide in-home delivery to 30 million homes in the US.

So, that's a quick overview of the history of Walmart. It is evident that the company just kept getting bigger and bigger with every passing year. This is why it is a $425 billion corporation today.

Reasons Behind Walmart's Global Success

There are many reasons that collectively made Walmart stand where it is today. But the main credit goes to the vision of Sam Walton, who believed in offering value to customers, leveraging innovation, and fostering a healthy company culture. In addition, Walton's approach to ensuring strong relationships with employees and customers also helped Walton corporation keep growing.

Some of the other reasons that led to Walmart's success are as follows:

1. Continuous Expansion and the Launch of the Walmart Supercenter

Walmart never stopped expanding its store count. When the company went public in 1969 and started trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the new capital flow made the company work on an ambitious expansion plan. In fact, it managed to expand up to 276 stores, stretching beyond Arkansas to other neighboring states.

Walmart achieved a great milestone with the launch of Walmart Supercenter in 1983. The supercenter was a new idea that combined grocery stores and traditional Walmart stores. This helped customers get everything from a single shop and made Walmart significantly increase its customer base.

2. Inventory Management with Technological Innovations

Walmart always leveraged technological innovations ahead of its competitors. Even in the 1980s, Walmart streamlined its supply chain management by investing significantly in computer systems. Furthermore, it also implemented strategic distribution and logistics systems. This helped the company to keep its expenses low, ensure product availability, and provide low-price products.

3. International Stores and Sam's Club

From exploring the history of Walmart, another reason that justifies its success is expansion beyond the US. In the 1990s, Walmart started opening its shops outside the US. Today, Walmart is operating in 28 countries, and the number is increasing with every passing year.

Besides international stores, Walmart also launched Sam's Club. It is a membership-based warehouse club meant to offer bulk products at discounted prices. This initiative was a success for Walmart, as both individuals and businesses were able to utilize it for their benefit.

4. Leveraging E-Commerce and Digital Transformation

Walmart knew the potential of e-commerce, so the company ensured a timely presence in it. That's why it launched Walmart.com in 2000 to offer an online shopping experience. Today, Walmart's online sales are generating a whopping $82.1 billion annually (2023 stats).

Besides that, Walmart is leveraging technological advancements where possible. Scan & Go mobile app, self-checkouts, and automated fulfillment centers are already in action. In addition, the company is investing heavily in AI, robotics, cloud, and much more.

Setbacks Faced by Walmart

Every business with this much success mostly faces some setbacks. The same has happened throughout the history of Walmart's expansion. Below are a few of the issues faced by Walmart:

  1. Worker Compensation: Walmart employees have raised concerns about Walmart's commitment to treating its employees fairly and giving them proper wages.
  2. Environmental Impact: Walmart has been questioned about its environmental impacts due to energy consumption, carbon emissions, and waste generation.
  3. Impact on Small Retailers: Since Walmart is accessible from every corner of the US, it has significantly impacted small retailers. Interestingly, there is now a term called the "Walmart Effect", which refers to the economic impact local businesses face when large companies open shops in their area.
  4. Overtime Lawsuit: In 2006, Walmart had to pay out $78 million to its employees due to violating the Pennsylvania state law that makes it mandatory to pay for overtime work.

In short, Walmart did face issues and setbacks, but that didn't stop the company from expanding or reaching the levels where it stands today.

Wrapping Up

The history of Walmart, from a single store to over 11,500 stores across 28 countries, is the reflection of how vision, solid corporate culture, and embracing market changes can transform a small business into a multinational corporation. And that's not the end of Walmart's innovations. We will likely see more groundbreaking initiatives by the company, especially considering the technological advancements.

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