Walmart was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 when he opened Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas. Through the 1960s, the small discount retailer grew slowly, amassing only a few dozen stores by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, rivals such as Target and Kmart were also beginning to expand.
The company was incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in 1969 and went public in 1972, eventually appearing on the New York Stock Exchange. By the end of the 1970s, the franchise boasted 276 stores in 11 states.
The 1980s brought about Walmart’s most significant period of expansion, launching new branches such as the Sam’s Club members warehouse and the first “Supercenter” in 1988. By the end of the decade, Walmart maintained 1,402 stores with annual sales of $26 billion.
The key to the company’s success lay in Sam Walton’s idea of customer service and low prices. “If you think about it from the point of view of the customer, you want everything: a wide assortment of quality merchandise; the lowest possible prices; guaranteed satisfaction; friendly, knowledgeable service; convenient hours; and a pleasant shopping experience,” he wrote in his autobiography. “You love it when a store exceeds your expectations, and you hate it when a store inconveniences you, gives you a hard time, or pretends you’re invisible.”
Today, Wal-Mart is one of the largest corporations in the world, with 8,650 stores in 15 countries and more than 2 million employees.