Did you ever wonder who started the trend of discounting? It was none other than, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Sam Walton has has been a major influence on 21st century discounting. He opened his first Wal-Mart in the city of Rogers, Arkansas, and then opened many more nation wide. Today, Wal-Mart ranks as the nation's largest retailer. The company has about 2,000 Wal-Mart stores throughout the United States. Because of his success, he has lowered the prices in stores across America.
Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918, in Kingfisher Oklahoma. He married Helen Robson on February 14, 1943. He died April 5, 1992. Walton first began his business adventure with a franchise of the Butler Brothers. He worked for the Ben Franklin variety stores. Sam's store led in sales and profits in the six-state region. Walton made this possible by properly stocking all the shelves with a range of goods with very low prices, keeping his store centrally located so it was easily accessible to many customers, staying open later than most stores, and experimenting with discount merchandising.
According to John Huey, Walton states:
I learned a tremendous amount from running a store in the Ben Franklin franchise program. They had an excellent operating program for their independent stores, sort of a canned course in how to run a store. It was an education in itself.
Walton's next move was to open a store called Walton's 5 & 10. Walton promoted it by calling it a "remodeling sale" and then had the grand opening in March. During this time he managed to juggle with two different stores, the one in Newport, Arkansas and the one in Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton then started another store in Fayetteville, located 20 miles from Bentonville. Walton opened many large stores, which were named the Walton's Family Center. He also named it Walton 5 & 10. Using these ideas and new management techniques he, began brainstorming for Wal-Mart.
According to Time , "On July 2, 1962, at the age of 44, he opened his first Wal-Mart and became the world's number one retailer." After his success from the first Wal-Mart he began to visit smaller towns that no one else would set up in, and began building more Wal-Marts. Each Wal-Mart was constructed with the same values, with hometown identity, and People Greeters, each store honors a graduating high school senior with a college scholarship, bake sales to benefit a local charities, also, associates determine where charitable funds are donated. In addition, the prices are low so customers do not have to wait for a sale to see savings. Fitzgerald says Walton believes, "Each Wal-Mart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community". Walton believed in working together.
He formed a Wal-Mart team that included vice president Ferold Arend, Bob Thornton as the distribution center leader, Ron Mayer vice president of finance and distribution, and many more influential team members. Fitzgerald quotes Walton:
We're all working together; that's the secret. And we'll lower the cost of living for everyone, not just in America, but we'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better lifestyle, a better life for all. We're proud of what we've accomplished; we've just begun.Walton's success was aided by his choice of location. Often he opened in small towns with less competition and joining the stock market. He also streamlined distribution. Vance H. Trimble states:
A Key factor in Wal-mart's success was that merchandise could be trucked into stores from distribution centers no more than one day's drive from any store.Because of Walton's experimenting, organization, and planning in the world of discounting, he has changed the lives of many Americans.
Influencing the 21st Century
Walton began a crusade that lasted the rest of his life and influenced the 21st century, by driving costs out of the merchandising system wherever it might be, limiting manufacturers' profits, and always having lower prices.
Walton was always trying to discover new ideas to improve his business. For example, he used the concept of self-service. This way the cash registers that were located at the counters throughout the store would be replaced by checkouts located in the front of the store where customers would pay for everything at once. The cashier could then unload new lightweight baskets and ring the items up and put them in bags so the customer could conveniently exit the store.
His number one rule was to keep the customers happy in keeping with this philosophy, he always had a wide assortment of items, had special promotions, kept the place clean and organized, and demanded that the staff be loyal. Wal-Mart became the icon for inventory control and logistics.
Today Wal-Mart's computer database is second in capacity. Walton's charisma and determination to succeed in business helped him to pass his competitors such as Sears, Kmart, and Target. His management skills and techniques were copied by other industries, enhancing the knowledge of today's businesses. Walton's information technology to cut costs lower than regular price influenced other companies to do the same. His retailing concepts paved the way for other important industries such as Home Depot, Barnes & Nobles, and Blockbuster. Walton gave America what they wanted, lower prices everyday.
In March of 1992 he received the Medal of Freedom from President George Bush for his great accomplishments and going beyond any other owner has ever done in the retailing industry.
Wal-Mart brought lower prices to smaller cities, but Sam Walton changed the way big businesses are run. Without Sam Walton's idea of lower prices, Americans might still be paying higher prices for the items we buy today. Sam Walton's dedication to discounting has changed the way retailing is organized and made life more affordable.
Sam Walton's 10 Rules for Success
This webpage created by K.T. Last update, 22 April 2003 for History and Thought of Western Man, Rich East High School.
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