Sam Walton, American retailer

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

Sam Walton (born 1918, died 1992) built the world’s largest retailer on low prices. Sam Walton was a self-styled populist who became the richest man in America. He bought direct from manufacturers and made his stores as efficient as possible, sending the savings back to consumers. From Wal-Mart’s beginnings in Arkansas in 1962, Walton saw a market for discount stores in rural and small-town America. He identified fertile ground for new stores by piloting his propeller plane over the heartland and cornering those areas long before other large retailers even recognized them as markets. Wal-Mart’s inexorable growth made it a target for antisprawl activists and many have criticized its labor practices. But even the company’s fiercest critics recognize that Walton’s ability to leverage economies of scale and commitment to low prices drove that unmatched growth.

Walton never wavered from his strategy even as other discounters broke into midmarket products, and low prices won out in the end.


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