Sam Walton - The First Stores

The First Stores

In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain.

It was here that Walton pioneered many concepts that became crucial to his success. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods. His second store, the tiny "Eagle" department store, was down the street from his first Ben Franklin and next door to its main (Newport) competitor. Walton leased the space mainly to preempt his competitor from expanding. It held its own, but didn't fare as well.

With the sales volume growing from $80,000 to $225,000 in three years, Walton drew the attention of the landlord, P.K. Holmes, whose family had a history in retail. Admiring Sam's great success, and desiring to reclaim the store (and franchise rights) for his son, he refused to renew the lease. The lack of a renewal option, together with the prohibitively high rent of 5% of sales, were early business lessons to Walton. Despite forcing Walton out, Holmes bought the store's inventory and fixtures for $50,000, which Walton called "a fair price".

With a year left on the lease, but the store effectively sold, he, his wife Helen and his father managed to negotiate the purchase of a new location on the downtown square of Bentonville, Arkansas. Walton negotiated the purchase of a small store, and the title to the building, on the condition that he get a 99 year lease to expand into the shop next door. The owner of the shop next door refused 6 times, and Walton gave up on Bentonville when his father in law, without Sam's knowledge, paid the shop owner a final visit, and $20,000 to secure the lease. He had just enough left from the sale of the first store to close the deal, and reimburse Helen's father. They opened for business with a one-day remodeling sale on May 9, 1950.

Before he bought the Bentonville store, it was doing $72,000 in sales. After the expansion, and 5 years under Walton, it was doing $250,000 in sales annually.

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Famous quotes containing the word stores:

    When their stores are full, idiots are considered wise.
    Punjabi proverb, trans. by Gurinder Singh Mann.