This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: South West
In the travel series View America, South West covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.
My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.
Bentonville proudly sports Sam Walton's Visitor Center and Museum of Wal-Marts. It is located in what used to be his second store. WalMart is the world's largest retailer, and its headquarters is located in Bentonville, Arkansas. The group includes WalMart discount stores, WalMart Super Centers, Bud's Discount City stores and Sam's Club stores.
The enormous WalMart discount stores are large stores that offer a huge range of products at floor prices, such as household goods, clothing, appliances, sports equipment, tools, garden utensils, automotive products, pharmaceuticals and nutrition. Sometimes you'll also find gas, a hairdresser and even an optician.
The WalMart Supercenters combine the advantages of traditional discount stores with the extended service of a supermarket. Bud's Discount City stores are large department stores, that provide about three quarters of the total Walmart range. The remaining 25% consists of sellout lots, overstocks and slightly damaged items, all of them with a substantial discount.
Sam's Clubs are a combination of high storage capacity in a huge warehouse, and retail trade. Customers purchase a Sam's Club membership card, and can then buy larger quantities and more expensive equipment than in a regular Walmart, but at even lower prices.
In 1945 Sam Walton (1918- 1992) opened a franchise store of the group Ben Franklin in Newport, Arkansas. He later moved to Bentonville, and in 1950 he opened another Ben Franklin franchise, which he called "the Walton - 5 & 10 cents". By 1959, together with his brother "Bud" Walton, he managed nine stores, and in 1962 there were already fifteen "Walton 5 & 10's".
He was convinced of the success of a continuous discount formula, and went to the Ben Franklin management to ask them better conditions for his purchases, given his 15 stores. He also proposed them to jointly build large discount stores, around somewhat larger cities. However, his proposal was laughed away, and he received no better conditions at all. Bet you that since then, they have been gnawing their fingernails right up their elbows about that decision...
In 1962 Sam and James Walton opened their own Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers. By 1969 they owned 18 Wal-Mart Discount City stores (now simply called Walmart), besides the original 15 Ben Franklin stores!
Sam Walton founded the new company Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and one year later it opened its first distribution center in Bentonville, and established its headquarters there. In 1970 Walmart went to the stock market. One hundred Walmart shares at that time, at $ 16.75 each for a total investment of 1,675 $, would now be worth an incredible 12.2 million dollars!
His Walmarts always maintain a local accent by also marketing local products. Next to this, the chain is quite active in scholarship grants, whereby promising youngsters are supported in their expensive studies. Furthermore, the stores regularly organize collections for charity and sponsor local events.
In 1983 Walmart introduced its "Sam's Wholesale Clubs discount membership warehouse stores", better known under the name "Sam's Clubs". In 1987 the company started the "Hyper Mart USA" stores, together with Cullum Companies, a chain of supermarkets from Dallas, Texas.
These Hyper Marts united groceries and large department stores with restaurants, banks, video rentals and other products, all located in the same building. Just one year later, however, these Hyper Marts were renamed to Walmart Supercenters.
In 1991, Walmart purchased the Wholesale Club, Inc., and brought its 28 department stores into its network of Sam's Clubs. The same year Walmart signed an agreement with CIFRA, the largest Mexican chain of supermarkets, and it developed drew several Walmarts and Sam's Clubs in Mexico.
In 1992 Sam Walton died of bone cancer.
This extraordinary growth remained uninterrupted, and in 2004 the group controlled 1,353 Walmart stores, 1,713 Supercenters, 551 Sam's Clubs, 85 Neighborhood Markets, 1,603 international stores and 110 distribution centers in the United States.
Walmart has its own communications satellite, and is continuously connected to all of its centers. The company employs more than 1.5 million people, and indisputably remains the world's price champion!
Given the increase of American unemployment and a few scandals about bad (Chinese) quality, the criticism on the Walmart purchase policy has sharply increased.