Wal-Mart at 50: A Not-So-Short History Of the World's Largest Retailer

by Eric Francis  on Monday, Jul. 2, 2012 12:00 am  

• With Sam Walton refusing to give a deposition, either in person or by videotape, in a slip-and-fall case filed by Andrew Carrizales, a Texas judge orders the company fined $1 million per day. After Walton fails to appear for a scheduled deposition, the judge orders the company to pay an $11.55 million fine; however, that judge loses a re-election bid and his successor vacates the fine the following month.

• Not all that springs from Wal-Mart roots grows into full flower. A year into its much-hyped Hypermart USA experiment, even though CEO David Glass says the company is “having fun with it,” the four Texas stores aren’t growing at the expected pace, according to industry analysts.

1989

• Who goes on vacation and wants to visit a corporate HQ? Wal-Mart customers, apparently. An influx of tourists to Bentonville prompts the company to plan a visitor’s center in Sam Walton’s original five-and-dime store on the town square. City tourism officials are delighted and one sums up the appeal as “Everybody knows somebody who works for Wal-Mart.”

• Having ascended to the top of the command structure at the nation’s third-largest retailer, you’d think David Glass would be enjoying the high life. Instead he tells the Gazette that there’s still a lot to do to ensure the continued success of the company, which he describes as “plodding along” at 20 percent year-over-year sales increases. Meanwhile, the paper notes, his humble office furnishings wouldn’t look out of place at a used car dealership.

• Adweek gives Wal-Mart an “A” grade in advertising, despite the fact the company isn’t even in the top 100 for advertising expenditures. In fact, its advertising bill amounts to just 0.2 percent of its sales. “Wal-mart’s marketing is bare bones,” Adweek notes, but “you can’t argue with success.”

1990

• In a letter sent to employees, Sam Walton announces he is being treated in Houston for bone cancer. He’s reported to be in good spirits, though, and even pays a visit to a Houston-area Sam’s Wholesale Club between treatments.

• Less than 30 years after he founded the chain with his brother, one of Sam Walton’s more audacious predictions comes true as Wal-Mart tops $1 billion in income for the first time. The deed is done with $25.8 billion in sales, and it drives per-share income up to $1.90. And this all happens during a year in which the company increases its workforce by 20 percent.

• Stock prices soar to more than $58 after Wal-Mart announces another stock split at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Fayetteville. The move boosts the total number of Wal-Mart stock shares to more than 1.1 billion. An investor who bought 100 shares of IPO stock 20 years earlier and held them now has 51,200 shares worth almost $3 million.

• With the summit of the retail trade in its sights, Wal-Mart sharpens its focus on the grocery trade by purchasing the country’s sixth-largest grocery distributer, McLane Co. of Texas, which has projected annual sales of $3 billion and operates in 11 states.

1991

 

 

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