Vintage Wal-Mart history: What the first stores looked like, and how they changed over the years

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Vintage Wal-Mart stores
In 1950, Sam Walton purchased a store in Bentonville, Arkansas, which he called Walton’s 5 & 10. Twelve years later — on July 2, 1962 — Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas.

That’s how the story of Wal-Mart began… and below, you can see where it went!

Wal-Mart Store 1: Rogers, Arkansas

first-walmart-store

Vintage Wal-Mart history: The variety store’s beginning, as told in 1975

Not unlike other retail discount chains, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had its beginning in the small-town variety store business.

The Company’s founder and present Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, Sam M. Walton, wrote the first chapter in Wal-Mart’s success story when he opened his first Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas in 1945.

One year later, joined by his brother, J. L. “Bud” Walton, now Senior Vice President, the two brothers began to expand their variety store operations.

Between 1945 and 1962, they assembled a group of fifteen successful Ben Franklin stores, which served as the base for what was to become Wal-Mart Stores, Inc,

Wal-Mart’s first Discount City store opened in Rogers, Arkansas (then a town of approximately 4700), in November 1962. Now. just thirteen years later, the Company is recognized as a leader in the regional retail discount industry.

Original Wal-Mart store and 5 and 10 store - 1950s and 1960s


Wal-Mart in 1975

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. currently operates a regional chain of 100 Wal-Mart Discount City stores, two Family-Center stores and two Sav-Co Home Improvement Centers. Thirty-seven stores are located in Arkansas; thirty-six in Missouri; fifteen in Oklahoma; six each in Kansas and Tennessee; two in Louisiana: and one each in Mississippi and Kentucky.

During the fiscal year ended January 31, 1975, the Company had a record-breaking twenty-six new stores to celebrate Grand Openings — twenty-four Wal-Mart Discount City stores and two Sav-Co Home Improvement Centers.

Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (6)

Arkansas led the number of new stores with seven Wal-Mart Discount Cities and two Sav-Co Home Improvement Centers. Of the remaining stores opened during the year, seven are located in Missouri; five in Tennessee: two in Oklahoma; and one each in Louisiana. Mississippi and Kentucky.

All of the new stores are located in smaller communities with two of the stores marking the entry of Wal-Mart Discount Cities into the States of Mississippi and Kentucky.

Wal-Mart’s marketing philosophy

Wal-Mart, unlike many other discount chains, has devoted itself almost exclusively to serving small business communities and rural areas.

The Company has generally avoided major metropolitan areas and concentrated on the smaller community, preferably county seat towns located within a 350-mile radius of the General Office and Distribution Centers in Bentonville, Arkansas. The average population of the communities served by Wal-Mart is between 10,000 and 15,000.

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Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (4)

Generally, Wal-Mart’s discount department stores range in size from 30,000 to 60,000 square feet of building area, with the average store size being approximately 42,000 square feet. 

With few exceptions, Wal-Mart Discount Cities are the largest non-food retailers in their respective communities. The Company’s concept is to be the dominant one-stop department store providing a vast assortment of quality goods.

Each specific store size has a merchandise mix based on space available. Although several stores maintain merchandise lines to meet local preference, the Company generally maintains a standard and broad line merchandise mix.

MORE: 100 vintage 1960s supermarkets & old-fashioned grocery stores


Vintage Wal-Mart stores scenes from the 1970s

Vintage Walmart stores from the late 70s (1)

Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (5)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (3)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (4)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (1)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (2)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (5)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the seventies - 1977 (6)

Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (1)

Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (2)

Vintage shopping at Wal-Mart in 1973

Vintage Walmart store scenes from the early 1970s (3)

Vintage Walmart stores from the late 70s (5)

Vintage Walmart stores from the late 70s (2)

Vintage Walmart stores from the late 70s (3)

Vintage Walmart stores from the late 70s (4)

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Vintage Wal-Mart stores in the 1980s

Old Wal-Mart store exteriors from the 80s - 1984

Vintage Wal-Mart merchandise for sale in 1980

Vintage Wal-Mart storefront in 1980

Vintage Wal-Mart stores in 1980 (1)

Vintage Wal-Mart stores in 1980 (3)

Vintage Wal-Mart stores in 1980 (4)

Vintage Wal-Mart stores in 1980 (6)

Big Wal-Mart delivery truck in 1980

Old Wal-Mart store scenes from 1982

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1982 (1)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1982 (2)

Photo processing at Wal-Mart in 1982

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1982 (4)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1984 (2)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1984 (3)

Old Wal-Mart stores in the 80s - 1984

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (1)

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (2)

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (3)

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (4)

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (5)

Vintage Wal-Mart 1981 (6)

Wal-Mart employees in the 80s

Vintage shopping at Wal-Mart in 1987

Wal-Mart shopping in the late 80s (2)

Wal-Mart shopping in the late 80s (3)

Walmart shipping department - Box on conveyor belt 1989


A Wal-Mart Supercenter store

Wal-Mart shopping in the late 80s (1)

New Wal-Mart sign being installed in 1988


Checking out at a Wal-Mart vintage store in 1987

Checking out at a Wal-Mart vintage store in 1987


Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton filming a TV commercial

Sam Walton - 1989

Loading shopping bags into the car in 1989

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Old Wal-Mart stores from the 1990s

Vintage shopping at Wal-Mart in 1995

Vintage shoppers at Wal-Mart in the 1990s (1)

Vintage shoppers at Wal-Mart in the 1990s (2)

Wal-Mart Magic Wand tech in 1997

Vintage shoppers at Wal-Mart in the 1990s (3)

Vintage shopping at Wal-Mart in 1998

Walmart greeter - 1995

WalMart in 1995

Things you could buy at Wal-Mart in the late 1990s

Cheerleaders at Wal-Mart in 1999

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