Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., branded as Walmart 'wɒlmɑrt, is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's second largest public corporation, according to the Fortune Global 500 list in 2013, the biggest private employer in the world with over two million employees, and is the largest retailer in the world. Walmart remains a family-owned business, as the company is controlled by the Walton family, who own a 48 percent stake in Walmart. It is also one of the world's most valuable companies.
The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, incorporated on October 31, 1969, and publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walmart is also the largest grocery retailer in the United States. In 2009, it generated 51 percent of its US$258 billion sales in the U.S. from grocery business. It also owns and operates the Sam's Club retail warehouses in North America.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the company rose from a regional to national giant. By 1988, Wal-Mart was the most profitable retailer in the US and by October 1989 it had become the largest in terms of revenue. Geographically limited to the South and Lower Midwest up to the mid 1980s, by the early 1990s Walmart's presence spanned coast to coast - Sam's Club opened in New Jersey in November 1989 and the first California outlet opened in Lancaster on July 28, 1990. A Walmart in York, Pennsylvania was opened in October 1990 bringing the main store into the Northeast.
Walmart has 8,500 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names. The company operates under the Walmart name in the United States, including the 50 states and Puerto Rico. It operates in Mexico as Walmex, in the United Kingdom as Asda, in Japan as Seiyu, and in India as Best Price. It has wholly owned operations in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada. Walmart's investments outside North America have had mixed results: its operations in the United Kingdom, South America, and China are highly successful, whereas ventures in Germany and South Korea were unsuccessful.
Early years (1945–1969)Edit
In 1945 a businessman and former J. C. Penney employee, Sam Walton, purchased a branch of the Ben Franklin Stores from the Butler Brothers. Sam's focus was on selling products at low prices to get higher-volume sales at a lower-profit margin. He portrayed it as a crusade for the consumer. He experienced setbacks, because the lease price and branch purchase were unusually high, but he was able to find lower-cost suppliers than the ones used by other stores. He passed on the savings in the product pricing. Sales increased 45 percent in his first year of ownership to $105,000 in annual revenue, which increased to $140,000 the next year and $175,000 the year after that. Within the fifth year, the store was making $250,000 in revenue. When the lease for the location expired, he couldn't reach an agreement for renewal, so he opened a new Ben Franklin franchise in Bentonville, Arkansas and called it "Walton's Five and Dime."
On July 2, 1962, Walton opened the first Walmart Discount City store located at 719 W. Walnut Street in Rogers, Arkansas. The building is now occupied by a hardware store and an antique mall, while the company's "Store #1" — since converted to a Supercenter concept — is located several blocks west down Walnut Street as of 2013. Within its first five years, the company expanded to 24 stores across Arkansas and reached $12.6 million in sales. In 1968, it opened its first stores outside Arkansas, in Sikeston, Missouri and Claremore, Oklahoma.
Incorporation and growth as a regional power (1969–1990)Edit
The company was incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. on October 31, 1969. In 1970, it opened its home office and first distribution center in Bentonville, Arkansas. It had 38 stores operating with 1,500 employees and sales of $44.2 million. It began trading stock as a publicly held company on October 1, 1970, and was soon listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The first stock split occurred in May 1971 at a market price of $47. By this time, Walmart was operating in five states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma; it entered Tennessee in 1973 and Kentucky and Mississippi in 1974. As it moved into Texas in 1975, there were 125 stores with 7,500 employees and total sales of $340.3 million. Walmart opened its first Texas store in Mount Pleasant on November 11, 1975.
In the 1980s, Walmart continued to grow rapidly, and by its 25th anniversary in 1987 there were 1,198 stores with sales of $15.9 billion and 200,000 associates. This year also marked the completion of the company's satellite network, a $24 million investment linking all operating units of the company with its Bentonville office via two-way voice and data transmission and one-way video communication. At that time, it was the largest private satellite network, allowing the corporate office to track inventory and sales and to instantly communicate to stores. In 1988, Sam Walton stepped down as CEO and was replaced by David Glass. Walton remained as Chairman of the Board, and the company also rearranged other people in senior positions.
In 1988, the first Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in Washington, Missouri. Thanks to its superstores, it surpassed Toys "R" Us in toy sales in the late 1990s. The company also opened overseas stores, entering South America in 1995 with stores in Argentina and Brazil; and Europe in 1999, buying Asda in the UK for $10 billion.
Retail hegemony and rise to multinational status (1990-present)Edit
By 1988 Walmart was more profitable than its rivals Kmart and Sears and was the dominant retailer in the Bible Belt; by 1990 it outsold both in terms of revenue and became the US' largest retailer in sales revenue.
Prior to the summer of 1990 Walmart had no foothold on the West Coast or Northeast (aside from a single Sam's Club in New Jersey opened in November 1989), but in July and October that year it opened its first stores in California and Pennsylvania respectively, making the corporation present from coast to coast. By the mid-1990s it was far and away the most powerful retailer in the US and spread to Mexico in 1991 and Canada in 1994. It spread to New England, Maryland, Delaware, Hawaii, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest last, Vermont being the last state to get a store in 1996.
In 1998, Walmart introduced the "Neighborhood Market" concept, now known as "Walmart Market", with three stores in Arkansas. By 2005, estimates indicate that the company controlled about 20 percent of the retail grocery and consumables business.
In 2000, H. Lee Scott became President and CEO, and Walmart's sales increased to $165 billion. In 2002, it was listed for the first time as America's largest corporation on the Fortune 500 list, with revenues of $219.8 billion and profits of $6.7 billion. It has remained there every year, except for 2006 and 2009.
In 2005, Walmart had $312.4 billion in sales, more than 6,200 facilities around the world – including 3,800 stores in the United States and 2,800 elsewhere, employing more than 1.6 million "associates" worldwide. Its U.S. presence grew so rapidly that only small pockets of the country remained further than 60 miles (100 km) from the nearest Walmart.
As Walmart grew rapidly into the world's largest corporation, many critics worried about the effect of its stores on local communities, particularly small towns with many "mom and pop" stores. There have been several studies on the economic impact of Walmart on small towns and local businesses, jobs, and taxpayers. In one, Kenneth Stone, a Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, found that some small towns can lose almost half of their retail trade within ten years of a Walmart store opening. However, in another study, he compared the changes to what small town shops had faced in the past – including the development of the railroads, the advent of the Sears Roebuck catalog, as well as the arrival of shopping malls – and concluded that shop owners who adapt to changes in the retail market can thrive after Walmart arrives. A later study in collaboration with Mississippi State University showed that there are "both positive and negative impacts on existing stores in the area where the new supercenter locates."
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, Walmart was able to use its logistical efficiency in organizing a rapid response to the disaster, donating $20 million in cash, 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, food for 100,000 meals, as well as the promise of a job for every one of its displaced workers. An independent study by Steven Horwitz of St. Lawrence University found that Walmart, The Home Depot and Lowe's made use of their local knowledge about supply chains, infrastructure, decision makers and other resources to provide emergency supplies and reopen stores well before FEMA began its response. While the company was overall lauded for its quick response – amidst the criticisms of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – several critics were nonetheless quick to point out that there still remain issues with the company's labor relations.
In October 2005, Walmart announced it would implement several environmental measures to increase energy efficiency. The primary goals included spending $500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency in Walmart's truck fleet by 25 percent over three years and double it within ten, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in seven years, reduce energy use at stores by 30 percent, and cut solid waste from U.S. stores and Sam's Clubs by 25 percent in three years. CEO Lee Scott said that Walmart's goal was to be a "good steward for the environment" and ultimately use only renewable energy sources and produce zero waste. The company also designed three new experimental stores in McKinney, Texas, Aurora, Colorado, and Las Vegas, Nevada with wind turbines, photovoltaic solar panels, biofuel-capable boilers, water-cooled refrigerators, and xeriscape gardens. Despite much criticism of its environmental record, Walmart took a few steps in what is viewed as a positive direction, which included becoming the biggest seller of organic milk and the biggest buyer of organic cotton in the world, as well as reducing packaging and energy costs. Walmart also spent nearly a year working with outside consultants to discover the company's total environmental impact and find where they could improve. They discovered, for example, that by eliminating excess packaging on their toy line Kid Connection, they could not only save $2.4 million a year in shipping costs but also 3,800 trees and a million barrels of oil. Walmart has also recently created its own electric company in Texas, Texas Retail Energy, and plans to supply its stores with cheap power purchased at wholesale prices. Through this new venture, the company expects to save $15 million annually and also lays the groundwork and infrastructure to sell electricity to Texas consumers in the future.
In March 2006, Walmart sought to appeal to a more affluent demographic. The company launched a new Supercenter concept in Plano, Texas, intended to compete against stores seen as more upscale and appealing, such as Target. The new store has wood floors, wider aisles, a sushi bar, a coffee/sandwich shop with free Wi-Fi Internet access, and more expensive beers, wines, electronics, and other goods. The exterior has a hunter green background behind the Walmart letters, similar to Neighborhood Market by Walmarts, instead of the blue previously used at its supercenters.
On September 12, 2007, Walmart introduced new advertising with the slogan, "Save Money Live Better", replacing the "Always Low Prices, Always" slogan, which it had used for the previous 19 years. Global Insight, which conducted the research that supported the ads, found that Walmart's price level reduction resulted in savings for consumers of $287 billion in 2006, which equated to $957 per person or $2,500 per household (up 7.3 percent from the 2004 savings estimate of $2,329).
On June 30, 2008, Walmart removed the hyphen from its logo and replaced the star with a symbol that resembles a sunburst or flower. The new logo received mixed reviews from some design critics, who questioned whether the new logo was as bold as competitors, such as the Target bullseye or as instantly recognizable as the former company logo, which was used for 18 years. The new logo made its debut on the company's walmart.com website on July 1, 2008. Walmart's U.S. locations were to update store logos in the fall of 2008, as part of an ongoing evolution of its overall brand. Walmart Canada started to adopt the logo for its stores in early 2009.
On March 20, 2009, Walmart announced that it is paying a combined $933.6 million in bonuses to every full and part-time hourly worker of the company. An additional $788.8 million in profit sharing, 401(k) contributions, and hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise discounts and contributions to the employees' stock purchase plan is also included in this plan. While the economy at large was in an ongoing recession, the largest retailer in the U.S. reported solid financial figures for the most recent fiscal year (ending January 31, 2009), with $401.2 billion in net sales, a gain of 7.2 percent from the prior year. Income from continuing operations increased 3 percent to $13.3 billion, and earnings per share rose 6 percent to $3.35. However, during the same decade it became clear that many millions of dollars are spent by US state or federal governments every year to provide basic health and welfare services to Walmart employees.
On July 16, 2009, Walmart announced plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index.
On February 22, 2010, the company confirmed it was acquiring video streaming company Vudu, Inc. for an estimated $100 million.
In January 2011, at the urging of Michelle Obama and her staff, Walmart announced a program to improve the nutritional values of its store brands over the next five years, gradually reducing the amount of salt and sugar, and eliminating trans fat. Walmart also promised to negotiate with suppliers such as Kraft with respect to nutritional issues. Reductions in the prices of whole foods and vegetables were also promised as well as efforts to open stores in low-income areas, "food deserts", where there are no supermarkets.
On April 23, 2011, the company announced that it was testing its new "Walmart To Go" home delivery system where customers will be able to order specific items offered on their website such as groceries, toiletries, and household supplies. The initial test is in San Jose, California, and the company has not said whether it will be rolled out nationwide. On November 14, 2012, Walmart launched their first mail subscription service called Goodies. Customers pay a $7 monthly subscription for five to eight delivered food samples each month, so they can try new foods.
In August 2013, the firm announced it was in talks to acquire a majority stake in the Kenya-based supermarket chain, Naivas.