Walmart's History and Mission Statement

Walmart shopping cart
••• Joe Raedle/Staff/Getty Images

In May of 1950, after successfully running a Ben Franklin variety store and an Eagle department store in Newport, Arkansas, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, opened Walton's 5&10 store in Bentonville, Arkansas. 

After enjoying further success with his Bentonville business and operating more Ben Franklin locations, Walton opened the first Walmart store in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Wal-Mart Discount City, as the benchmark store was named, was financed 95 percent by Mr. Walton himself, who was 44-years-old at the time. 

Walmart's History 

Known as "Mr. Sam" throughout his tenure at the helm of his empire, Walton crafted a mission statement for the first store promising "The lowest prices anytime, anywhere." The concept worked. After becoming incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Walton and his family were the proud owners of two-dozen stores in five short years, achieving $12.7 million in sales. 

But maverick entrepreneur Walton wasn't done yet. He wanted his stores in the national spotlight. In 1970, he brought Walmart public with shares offered at $16.50. By 1972, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had 51 stores and sales had skyrocketed to $78 million. By 1980, Walmart's 51 stores increased to 276 stores and annual sales reached a benchmark of $1 billion. 

Moving forward, Walmart opened its first Sam's Club—a chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs—in Oklahoma in 1983. The first Walmart Supercenter opened in Missouri five years later. In 1990, Walmart became the top retailer in the United States, a position it holds today, according to Deloitte’s Global Powers of Retailing list.

The Mission Statement and Purpose of Walmart 

Walmart's current mission statement and its advertising slogan, which are prevalent at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas—the place where it all began—are the same: "Save people money so they can live better." 

In addition to this mission statement, the company looks to its founder for the company's purpose. When Sam Walton received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush in 1992 shortly before his death at the age of 74, Mr. Walton had this to say upon accepting the award:

“If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone…we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”

Walmart's Policies, Principles, and Rules

Walmart has developed a variety of unique policies, principles, rules, processes, and procedures over the years. All of these helps to form the behemoth's corporate culture. Some of Walmart's most popular policies include the following:

  • Open Door Policy: Managers' doors are open to employees at all levels.
  • Sundown Rule: Employees should answer all customer and supplier questions on the same day the questions are received.
  • Grass Roots Process: Walmart strives to capture suggestions and ideas from the sales floor and front lines – and to implement them.
  • Three Basic Beliefs and Values: Respect for the individual, service to our customers, and striving for excellence are cornerstones of the business.
  • The 10-Foot Rule: Making eye contact, greeting people, and offering help to customers who come within 10 feet of employees is a 24/7 rule.
  • Servant Leadership: Leaders are in service to their team, not vice versa.
  • The Walmart Cheer: This is an actual, structured chant that was created by founder Sam Walton to lift morale every morning. He got the idea after visiting a Korean manufacturing facility in 1975.

In January 2018, Walmart announced plans to increase the starting wage rate for all hourly associates in the U.S. to $11, expand maternity and parental leave benefits and provide a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates of up to $1,000.