Sam Walton, The Retail Mastermind who made Walmart

Supriti Tripathy

14th Sep'21
Sam Walton, The Retail Mastermind who made Walmart | OpenGrowth

"There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire anybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." – Sam Walton.

Wal-Mart is the world's largest company in the Fortune Global 500 List of 2020, with annual revenues crossing over US$548 billion. This one-stop store for all the needs of an ordinary American has sold everything from food to accessories to shoes to innerwear. And today, after doing business successfully for over 50 years, Walmart is still going strong, improvising at every step. According to Walton, refining workplace culture and giving importance to the customer are the key factors of business. Therefore the focus for Walmart has always been low-cost sales and better customer satisfaction.


Early Life

Sam Walton was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, on March 29, 1918. His father was a farmer and could only make things meet. Soon, they moved to another small town, and Walton took small jobs aside from his education to support his family. Walton took an interest in everything that came his way and was immensely versatile. He had always dreamt of retailing and start his business enterprise early on.

Walton started his career officially with a small stint in retail at J.C. Penny as a management trainee. He served in the military after that, where he reached the captain rank before resigning. At the age of 26, he purchased a Ben Franklin variety store using money from his savings ($5000) and borrowings ($20000) from his father-in-law. In three years, the company's profits almost tripled from $80000 to $225000. He soon opened a second store, "Eagle," that did well too.


Venturing Into Retail

He was a passionate and successful entrepreneur. Following the success of his initial two stores, he opened many other stores with the help of his brother and father-in-law. The profit he made from one store went into the making of another and so on. His ambitious retail spirit caught his attention for anything new. He was quick to transform any key strategy of competitors and use it to the advantage of his business. For example, the guards at the exit door of Walmart stores were a replication of another store policy to avoid illegal picking of store stuff.




The Story Of Walmart 

Walton's two-store success rang the wrong bells for the landlord who wanted to buy the Franklin store's profitable business. Without the lease renewal, Walton had no option but to agree to the landlord's terms. However, he never gave up and kept beating all odds. When he opened his stores in Bentonville, he used his first business lesson and took the lease for 99-years.

Walton's Five and Dime started in 1950 in full fledge, and the low price product policy was the most successful, which led to the falling of retail giants Kmart, Woolworth, and Sears. Walton, the proud owner of 15 new stores, paced another super strategy into his retail business in another ten years. He cut prices and offered large volumes to sell and eventually make up the price difference. The plan was to implement the policy in small towns with a discount on every stock stored. Since it was a massive risk for owners to materialize Walton's idea, he took the plunge. Walton officially started Walmart in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas, after mortgaging his home and other liabilities.

The big city products at discounted displays swarmed the customers in a small town, and the sales rose immensely. He was soon to diversify the profits in the expansion of new stores throughout Arkansas and Missouri. By 1970, there were 18 Walmart stores in the US, and the profitable position led Walton to take Walmart public with about $5million valuation.




Walton's Competitiveness

Walton was a man of action. He knew being a great leader requires deliberate practice. Even with the success of his ventures, he pursued better methods to increase the customer base. He always believed in providing value to the needs of the customers at large. His competitiveness was so ingrained in him that he could change his views if he felt he had got the wrong perception. Walton took pilot training sessions with his son as he wanted to implant Walmart stores worldwide and cater to every small and big town.

By 1980, Walmart proudly was standing with 276 stores and booming ahead with more numbers. He launched Sam's Wholesale Clubs to help small businesses buy goods in bulk. Walton earned the title of the richest man in the US in 1985 with an estimated worth of about $2.5 billion. In 1987, Walmart was the third-largest retailer in the US. The very next year, Walton took over the company as the chairman.


Knowing The Economy and the People

Walton was one among Time's list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century. In March 1992, he received the prestigious Presidential Medal of freedom for his immense contribution to retail business. His prudence in understanding the economy of America is evident from his idea of giving the power of retail to the end customers. To cope with the low selling price of products, he focused on policies to reduce expenses. Leading from purpose to impact and getting into the detail of every aspect of the retail business made him the legend he became. It is his brilliant market consciousness that has kept Walmart still one of the top retail corporations.




Leaving The Legacy Behind

Walton inspired millions with his childlike intuition and crazy persuasion. He left for his worldly abode on April 5, 1992, and left behind a legacy of intelligent entrepreneurship. With his middle-class upbringing, he valued money, customers, the satisfaction of his workforce, and employee productivity. Today Walmart has a worldwide presence, employs more than 2 million people, has around 11,766 stores, and going strong through generations.


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A believer of good things and pursuer of diverse avocation, she is a fiction lover and a simple writer. Supriti has a number of professions to her list and she feels challenges are the only answers to failures.