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 stock, trading in July at more than $81 a share, is split for the sixth time.

• Though Wal-Mart officials don’t address the issue publicly, a move in Congress to restrict access to tax-exempt bonds, including barring any one corporation from obtaining more than $40 million in financing using them, raises concerns about how that might impact the giant retailer, which had, the Gazette reported, “relied heavily on tax-exempt bonds” when building new stores and distribution centers.

• Wal-Mart acquires Woolco Stores and initiates its “People Greeter” program.


• The chain once again breaks its own records with sales exceeding $6.4 billion and net income of $270.8 million. Those represented year-to-year increases of 37 percent and 38 percent, respectively.

• On the recommendation of UA President Ray Thornton, the university’s board of trustees spends $2 million to buy stock in Walton Enterprises, an investment firm owned by various Walton family members, trusts and corporations, and which holds more than a third of Wal-Mart’s common stock. Income from the investment is dedicated to the new performing arts and business conference center.

• Worth $2.3 billion at age 66, Sam Walton is the second-richest man in the country after Gordon Peter Getty, scion of the Getty Oil family and worth $4.1 billion, according to Forbes. Walton is not pleased by the publicity and even calls into question the veracity of the claim, declaring: “Whatever I own may just be some Wal-Mart stock, see, and you can’t spend that.”


• Another year, another record: Wal-Mart’s sales reached $8.5 billion in the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 1986. Net income for the year is reported to be $327.5 million.

• Sam Walton, according to a New York Times News Service article, is “upset about the flood of imports, and he is aiming to do something about it.” Thus he asks his 3,000 suppliers in a February letter to “buy more American goods.” But by October Walton is waving a white flag, at least in the face of a flood of imported textiles, putting garments made overseas (or assembled in the U.S. from cloth made overseas) in his stores.

• As has become almost routine, Wal-Mart stock is split in October. An investor who bought 100 shares for $1,650 at the IPO in 1970 now has 12,800 shares worth almost $320,000.

• Patricia Coker, who was fired from her assistant store manager job over alleged “fraternization” with co-workers, files a federal class action suit against Wal-Mart and three store employees, claiming her First Amendment right to free association had been violated. She asks for a total of $600,000 in damages.



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