Sam Walton


Samuel Moore Walton (March 29 1918April 5 1992), was an American businessman and entrepreneur born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma who founded two American retailers Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. He was the patriarch of the Walton family, the richest non-royal family in the world.

Early life

Walton was born to Thomas Gibson Walton and Nancy Lee Walton near Kingfisher, Oklahoma on March 29, 1918. There, he lived with his parents on their farm until 1923. Sam's father decided farming did not generate enough income on which to raise a family, so he decided to go back to a previous profession of a mortgage man. So he and his family (now with another son, James born in 1921) moved from Oklahoma to Missouri. There they moved from one small town to another for several years. While attending 8th grade in Shelbina, Sam became the youngest Eagle Scout in the state's history. In adult life, Walton became a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.

Walton excelled physically in high school, playing basketball and football as starting quarterback for Columbia's David H. Hickman High School in 1935, when they won the state title. While at Hickman, he also served as vice president of the student body in his junior year and as president in his senior year. He performed well enough academically to become an honors student.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Walton had numerous chores to help make financial ends meet for his family. He milked the family cow, bottled the surplus and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver newspapers on a paper route. Upon graduating, he was voted "Most Versatile Boy."

After high school, Walton decided to attend college, hoping to find a better way to help support his family. He attended the University of Missouri and majored in economics and was an ROTC officer. During this time, he worked various odd jobs, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. Also during his time in college, Walton joined the estimable Zeta Phi chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He was also tapped by QEBH, the well-known secret society on campus honoring the top senior men. Upon graduating, he was voted "permanent president" of the class.

Walton joined JC Penney's as a management trainee in Des Moines, Iowa three days after graduating from college. This position earned him $75 a month. He resigned in 1942 in anticipation of being inducted into the military for service in World War II. In the meantime, he worked at a DuPont munitions plant near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Soon afterwards, Walton joined the military in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps. In this position he served in the continental United States. He eventually reached the rank of captain.

The first stores

In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton decided he wanted to own a department store but would settle for a variety store. With some help from his father-in-law with a loan of $20,000, plus $5000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Rogers, Arkansas. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain.

It was here that Walton pioneered many concepts that would prove to be crucial to his success. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods at low prices. His store also stayed open later than most other stores, especially during the Christmas season. He also pioneered the practice of discount merchandising by buying wholesale goods from the lowest priced supplier. This allowed him to pass on savings to his customers, which drove up his sales volume. Higher volumes allowed him to negotiate even lower purchase prices with the wholesaler on subsequent purchases. Walton's store led in sales and profits in the Butler Brothers' six-state region. One factor that made this store successful was its central location, making it accessible to a wide range of customers. In an attempt to limit the expansion of his main competitor, the Sterling Store, Walton leased a nearby Kroger store and opened it in 1950 as the "Eagle" department store, but it didn't fare as well.

Due to the variety store's enormous success, the landlord, P.K. Holmes, refused to renew the lease when it expired, desiring to pass the store onto his son. The lack of a renewal option, together with the outrageous rent of 5% of sales, were early business lessons to Walton. Despite forcing Walton out, Holmes bought the store's inventory and fixtures for $50,000, which Walton called "a fair price."

Walton's Five and Dime (a.k.a. Walton's 5 & 10)

Before long, Walton arranged for another location for a new store. Unable to find a new location in Newport, Walton located a variety store in Bentonville, Arkansas which he would open as another called "Walton's Five and Dime." In Bentonville, the Waltons became involved in numerous civic activities. Sam Walton served as president of the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.

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deid chain of Ben Franklin stores== Over time, Walton went on to open more Ben Franklin stores with the help of his brother, father-in-law, and brother-in-law. In 1954, he opened a store with his brother in a shopping center in Ruskin Heights, a suburb of Kansas City. He opened another in Arkansas, but it failed to be as successful as his other stores. Walton decided to concentrate on retail business instead of the shopping centers and opened larger stores which were called "Walton's Family Center."

Walton offered managers the opportunity to become limited partners if they would invest in the store they oversaw and then invest a maximum of $1,000 in new outlets as they opened. This motivated the managers to always try to maximize profits and improve their managerial skills. By 1962, Walton and his brother Bud owned sixteen variety stores in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas (fifteen Ben Franklin and the one independent Fayetteville store).

The first Wal-Mart

The first true Wal-Mart opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. Wal-Mart eventually became the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart has outreach programs led by local employees who grew up in the area and understand its needs. Wal-Mart becomes involved in local communities by allowing local charities to hold bake sales on store property, and by offering scholarships to graduating seniors from local high schools. Wal-Mart's slogan is "The lowest Prices. Guaranteed!" Changed in 2007 to "Save Money. Live Better."

Legacy and death

Walton died Sunday April 5, 1992, of a type of multiple myeloma.

Further reading

  • Vance H. Trimble, Sam Walton: The Inside Story of America's Richest Man, 1990.
  • Sam Walton and John Huey, Sam Walton: Made in America : My Story, 1996. ISBN 0553562835.


External links

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