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  

• Already one of the nation’s leading pharmacies in terms of retail prescription drug sales, Wal-Mart introduces a $4 price point for generic prescription drugs. Many other retail chains follow suit.


• The group Human Rights Watch issues a report claiming Wal-Mart used numerous tactics, some of which the group said were illegal, to prevent employees from organizing unions. Such tactics are said to include monitoring people believed to be union supporters and banning talk of unions in stores. Wal-Mart dismisses the report as “pro-union” and says associates have the right “to a free and fair unionization vote through a private, government-sponsored process.”

• After a 2005 discussion on global warming with scientists and environmentalists, CEO H. Lee Scott announces Wal-Mart will embrace compact fluorescent light bulbs in a big way. “The environment,” Scott says, “is begging for the Wal-Mart business model.” Suppliers hesitate, but the company stands behind its goal to sell 100 million a year by 2008. Wal-Mart accomplishes this goal by October 2007.


• In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Wal-Mart is still showing month-to-month sales gains. Why? Company officials credit slowed growth in new stores, augmented by a program to remodel existing stores. CEO H. Lee Scott says of the economy, “This is the kind of environment that Sam Walton built this company for.”

• Having conquered retail, grocery, sporting goods and toys, what’s next for Wal-Mart? Classified ads, apparently, but an online venture started by the company in partnership with Oodle.com runs into a problem when ads from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette turn up there without the paper’s permission.

• Wal-Mart Stores Inc. adopts a new logo for its flagship stores, one that dispenses with the hyphen: Walmart. The corporate name, however, remains hyphenated.


• With Michael T. Duke succeeding H. Lee Scott as president and CEO, Wal-Mart enters the market in Chile through its acqusition of a majority stake in D&S S.A., and sales surpass $400 billion for the first time.

• When H. Lee Scott retires as president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., his environmental initiatives garner some of the highest praise. Wal-Mart has cut its energy use, insisted on reduced packaging from its suppliers and increased the efficiency of its trucking fleet by 25 percent. Mike Duke succeeds Scott in the top post.

• Having established firm dominance in the bricks-and-mortar world, Wal-Mart sets its sights on Amazon.com’s place as the No. 1 online retailer. In fact, the company even takes a page from Amazon’s playbook, deeply discounting books and allowing other retailers to sell online via the company’s website. An analyst says this could be a “tremendous bonanza” for Wal-Mart, which had just $1.74 billion in online sales the year before. Amazon, on the other hand, posts $15 billion through the first three quarters of 2009.



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