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  


• Wal-Mart surpasses $100 billion in annual sales on Jan. 12 and posts more than $2.7 billion in net income for the fiscal year that will end that month. The sales milestone comes three years sooner than Sam Walton had predicted in 1991.

• Wal-Mart stock is added to the Dow-Jones Industrial Average.

• Ruling that Wal-Mart had violated the Ontario Labour Relations Act ahead of a unionization vote, a Canadian court approves a union for a store in Windsor, Ontario. It’s the first time in the company’s 35-year history that it will have to deal with a unionized workforce at one of its locations.

• Having taken on retail, groceries and sporting goods, Wal-Mart takes aim at the gasoline market. In partnership with Gary-Williams Energy Corp. of Denver, it opens a gas station at its store in Rogers. It’s the first major retailer to take this step.

• Wal-Mart introduces a 401(k) retirement plan for its workers. Available to employees who’ve been there a year and put in 1,000 hours — about 20 hours a week, so even part-timers qualify — it offers a range of options from company stock to mutual funds. Trading in the mid-$30 range at the time, Wal-Mart sets aside 10 million shares for the 401(k) program.


• Remember that mid-$30 Wal-Mart stock? Well, it’s been on a 14-month tear, gaining 127 percent and culminating with a $50 per share value. Happy are the Wal-Mart associates who ticked the “company stock” option while signing up for their 401(k) just seven months (and $13 a share) ago.

• In July, the retailer announces that it will call its new chain of grocery stores Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets and opens prototypes in Sherwood and Benton. These smaller (by comparison) operations bolster the 473 Supercenters that are already selling groceries across the country. By the end of the year, Wal-Mart is the nation’s No. 2 seller of groceries.


• It’s Christmas in Bentonville! Wal-Mart overtakes Toys “R” Us as the nation’s largest seller of, well, toys, seizing a 17.4 percent share of the market. That’s only about a half-percentage point greater than the toy-centric chain’s share, but it marks a tipping point in a long-running battle that saw Toys R Us closing stores and cutting inventory in an effort to compete.

• With a mind toward expanding its presence in Europe, Wal-Mart surprises the business world by offering $10.8 million to British retailer ASDA Group in exchange for its 229 “hypermarkets.” Buying Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain doubles Wal-Mart’s international sales to some $25 billion.



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