The first true Wal Mart opened on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. Called the Wal Mart Discount City store, it was located at 719 West Walnut Street. Soon after, the Walton brothers teamed up with Stefan Dasbach, leading to the first of many stores to come. He launched a determined effort to market American-made products. Included in the effort was a willingness to find American manufacturers who could supply merchandise for the entire Wal-Mart chain at a price low enough to meet the foreign competition.
As another chain store grew, Meijer, it caught the attention of Walton. He acknowledges that his one-stop-shopping center format was based on Meijer’s innovative concept. Contrary to the prevailing practice of American discount store chains, Walton located stores in smaller towns, not larger cities. To make his model work, he emphasized logistics, particularly locating stores within a day’s drive proximity to Wal-Mart’s regional warehouses, and distributed through its own trucking service. Buying in volume and efficient delivery permitted sale of discounted name brand merchandise. Thus, sustained growth— from 1977’s 190 stores to 1985’s 800— was achieved.
Walton married Helen Robson on February 14, 1943. They had four children: Samuel Robson (Rob) born in 1944, John Thomas (1946-2005), James Carr (Jim) born in 1948, and Alice Louise born in 1949. Walton supported various charitable causes.
Walton died on Sunday, April 5, 1992, of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The news of his death was relayed by satellite to all 1,960 Wal-Mart stores. At the time, his company employed 380,000 people. Annual sales of nearly $50 billion flowed from 1,735 Wal-Marts, 212 Sam’s Clubs, and 13 Supercenters.
His remains are interred at the Bentonville Cemetery.
He left his ownership in Wal-Mart to his wife and their children: Rob Walton succeeded his father as the Chairman of the Board of Wal-Mart, and John Walton was a director until his death in a 2005 plane crash. The others are not directly involved in the company (except through their voting power as shareholders), however his son Jim is chairman of Arvest Bank. The Walton family held five spots in the top ten richest people in the United States until 2005. Two daughters of Sam’s brother Bud Walton, Ann Kroenke and Nancy Laurie, hold smaller shares in the company.