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 its founder fighting cancer, Wal-Mart completes its gradual ascent to the top of its niche, overtaking both Kmart and perennial frontrunner Sears to become the nation’s largest retailer.

• Remember the David Glass comment about “plodding along” at 20 percent growth? Well, do that for 20 years in a row and you’re a Wall Street darling. That was the assessment of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, which declared: “We don’t know of another major company offering such substantial growth prospects.”

• The winning streak that started with $1 billion in income and was followed by taking over the top retailer spot continues with a record high price for Wal-Mart stock. It ends the year at a split-adjusted price of $58.88, thanks to a $2.25 jump on Dec. 30.


• With the 800-seat auditorium in Wal-Mart’s headquarters filled to capacity, President George Bush presents the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, to Sam Walton on March 17. The president tells the crowd of Wal-Mart employees, “The story of Sam Walton is an illustration of the American dream.”

• Sam Walton dies on April 5 at age 74, earning a front-page banner headline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Less than a month after entering the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock, the Wal-Mart founder succumbs to bone cancer. At the time of his death his company has more than 2,000 stores and 380,000 employees. Wal-Mart President and CEO David Glass declares “we have lost more than our chairman and founder ... we have lost a friend.”

• Two months after his death, Sam Walton is on the cover of Time magazine: “How Sam Walton Got Rich: The wit and wisdom of America’s favorite shopkeeper.”

• The trade publication Sports Trend announces that Wal-Mart has assumed the mantle of nation’s top sporting goods retailer, with $1.3 billion in sales, surpassing Kmart.

• The company logo is updated again, with a star replacing the hyphen.


• Following its established practice of splitting stock when it exceeds $50 per share in value, Wal-Mart announces a two-for-one deal that brings the total number of outstanding shares to almost 2.3 billion. The news sends the stock’s value up by $3.25, to $62.63 on the New York Stock Exchange. It is the company’s 10th stock split.

• A Faulkner County judge finds that Wal-Mart’s below-cost pricing on prescription drugs “injured competition” and violated the state’s Unfair Practices Act, ruling in favor of three local pharmacies that had sued the retail giant. Wal-Mart appeals to the state Supreme Court.



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