A Billion Dollar Company

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A Billion Dollar Company

The 1980 annual report celebrates Walmart’s “billion dollar year.”

A 1981 article in Discount Store News examines Walmart’s growth and strategies. Author Doug Stinson wondered if Walmart could sustain those practices if it grew to around 800–1,000 stores.

Walmart’s success earned Sam the title of “CEO of the Year” from Financial World in 1986.

When Sam became the richest man in America, people took notice. What they found was a simple, down-to-earth man.

Growing the Company

By the late 1970s, Sam had recruited an executive management team—“as much talent under one roof as any one retailer could ever hope to have,” he said. Sales were skyrocketing and the company was growing. Walmart acquired Mohr Value discount stores in Illinois, and, in 1981, 92 Kuhn’s Big K stores in Tennessee and other southern states. “We exploded from that point on,” wrote Sam. The press took notice. Fortune, Life, and other journals frequently ran stories on the Walmart phenomenon and its founder.

People expected the richest man in America to live an opulent lifestyle in a metropolitan area. Sam preferred the quiet town in which he had settled his family and opened Walton’s 5&10.

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Sam didn’t drive a fancy car or live in a mansion. He certainly wasn’t going to splurge on haircuts either.

The chairs from Mayhew’s barber shop where Sam and Bud would get their hair cut for $5.

Nameplate for Bud’s barber chair.

Name plate for Sam’s barber chair.

Sam’s Club

In the early 1980s, a new competitor appeared—sub-discount wholesalers with low overhead that could undersell regular discounters. Because of Walmart’s commitment to “Every Day Low Prices,” it had to meet this challenge. In 1983, the company opened the first Sam’s Club, aimed at small-business owners and other customers who buy merchandise in bulk. It was an instant success. Since then, hundreds of Sam’s Clubs have opened across the country, earning billions of dollars in sales. Sam wrote that creating this new line of stores was like a second childhood for him, “a chance to build a company all over again.”

The second Sam’s Club opens in Dallas, Texas, 1983.

 

 
 
 
 

Another Sam’s Club opens, 1986. The company opened 123 Sam’s Clubs in the 1980s.

 
 
 
 
   
In 1979 … we hit a billion dollars in sales … I was amazed that Wal-Mart had turned into a billion-dollar company. But I couldn’t see any logic to stopping there.
Sam Walton

The Los Angeles Times covers Sam’s performance of the hula on Wall Street.

Sam’s Wall Street hula in Walmart World. He regretted that promise to the associates, but he followed through because he believed in his people and in having fun.

Sam, celebrating an 8 percent pretax profit, with a grass skirt and Hawaiian dancers.

Hula on Wall Street

Generating high profits can be risky, as Sam Walton found out in 1984. He told company associates he would “do a hula on Wall Street” if Walmart achieved a record 8 percent pretax profit that year. The industry average was 3 percent. Walmart did it, and Sam had to live up to his pledge. David Glass assured that it would be a high-profile event by hiring a troupe of hula dancers and ukulele players and alerting the media.