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  

• The Democrat-Gazette profiles 68-year-old Elinor Blair of North Little Rock, who sells handmade quilts to supplement her modest Social Security income. Blair, who learned the craft at her grandmother’s knee, says cheaper imported quilts are hurting her: “If they can go ... to Wal-Mart and get one for $40 ... they won’t buy from us.” That week the company says it will not reorder the Chinese quilts, citing poor quality.

1994

• In the company’s annual report, Wal-Mart’s top brass praise associates for helping achieve a $12 billion sales increase despite a tough year and tout commitment to equal employment opportunity and being as environmentally friendly as possible. But the first word in the report comes from husband-and-wife greeters Dave and Rita from Glenwood Springs, Colo., who say “[We] hope you will enjoy reading this annual report.”

1995

• Wal-Mart co-founder James L. “Bud” Walton, Mr. Sam’s brother, suffers an abdominal aneurism while on a Caribbean fishing vacation. He dies at age 73 during surgery after being flown from the island of St. Maarten to a Miami hospital.

• In U.S. District Court, a unanimous jury awards $50 million to Peggy Kimzey in her sexual harassment suit against Wal-Mart. Kimzey says she had been subjected to lewd comments and unwanted advances while working in a Missouri store. Wal-Mart says it will appeal the verdict.

• Jonathan Fleck of Minnesota strikes a deal with Wal-Mart to sell Makin’ Bacon, a microwave oven bacon-cooker invented several years earlier by his 8-year-old daughter, Abbey. During the next 10 years, some 1.25 million are purchased by Wal-Mart shoppers.

1996

• Partnering with Microsoft, Wal-Mart prepares to launch its first online shopping website. Through it, customer orders will be forwarded to Wal-Mart’s suppliers, who will ship the articles themselves, with the retailer as the middleman. Meanwhile, Kmart and Sears mainly use their websites to direct customers to brick-and-mortar stores.

• After 99 consecutive quarters of growth — that’s almost 25 years — Wal-Mart finally sees a year-over-year decline in its earnings. Net income in the fourth quarter of 1995 is $942 million, a 9 percent drop from the $1.3 billion in the same quarter in 1994. Rating service Moody’s follows this news a week later with a downgrade of Wal-Mart’s credit to Aa2.

• Responding to analyst reports that its stock is undervalued, Wal-Mart increases its investment in a buyback program to $200 million, a one-third jump. By November, the company has increased the buyback amount to $400 million.

• Wal-Mart enters the German market by buying 21 stores from the Wertkauf hypermarket chain. Less than a year later, Wal-Mart will buy 74 more stores from another German retailer, Interspar.

 

 

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