The Growth and Controversy of Walmart

Walmart May 22 2024
Image from Walmart corporate website

Walmart is one of the biggest and most well-known retail corporations in the world. First opening in the state of Arkansas, Walmart has now opened thousands of stores in the United States and expanded to 23 other countries. According to the 67th edition of the Fortune 500, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue. Additionally, it is the world’s largest private employer, having over 2.3 million workers all around the world. Despite all of its success, many are critical of Walmart’s growth and claim that they engaged in corporate misconduct. In this article, I will be going through the history of Walmart and a few of the controversies that it has been through.

The Beginnings of Walmart

Sam Walton was a very ambitious young man who had an idea to open discount chain stores in small towns. At the time Sam Walton and his brother were operating a regional chain of stores. The executives of this company rejected his idea, so Sam Walton decided to do it himself. In 1962, the first Walmart store was opened. This idea was considered to be quite controversial because discount stores were generally located in large cities since many believed it would not be possible to generate enough revenue in small towns. Walton, however, knew it would be possible with the correct model.

Walton was able to make this work by placing clusters of stores that were at most a one-day drive from the Walmart warehouse. The volume buying coupled with the low-cost delivery allowed Walmart to offer name-brand goods at cheap prices in areas where there was little competition. This business plan allowed Walmart to grow a considerable amount. By 1967 (just five years after opening), Walmart opened 24 stores and made approximately 12.7 million dollars in sales.

From then on, Walmart continued to grow. In 1970, Walmart officially became a publicly traded company, being sold at $16.50 per share. In 1972, the company hit record sales of $78 million. In 1980, Walmart surpassed its 1972 accomplishment by hitting $1 billion in annual sales, which was faster than any other company at that point in time.

The Controversies of Walmart

Walmart’s success as a corporation was something that was hard to replicate for many. On the outside, everything seems perfect. However, according to the accounts of many individuals that worked there, there was plenty of corporate misconduct at Walmart. Furthermore, according to Bob Ortega’s book In Sam We Trust, this exploitative approach from the beginning. Ortega states that Walton intentionally paid his employees as little as possible, and when his workers thought about unionization, their concerns were not addressed. Additionally, employees were given “meager benefits,” and there were overtime pay abuses.

Just this year Walmart was sued by the EEOC for gender and race discrimination. One Walmart store in Iowa gave a Black female employee an unsanitary lactation space due to her race. Additionally, when she asked for a promotion, she was denied one due to stereotypes about mothers with small children. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the former employee. Walmart came back with a statement claiming that they “do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, and diversity and inclusion is a key company priority.”

Walmart Today

Walmart is still a very successful company today. Throughout the pandemic, Walmart’s e-commerce business grew by 74%. The corporation has over 265 million customers around the world every week. Additionally, statistics show that Walmart is being more inclusive: 55% of Walmart’s employees are women. Despite being a successful corporation that has supplied people with quality products over the years, many are still critical of its growth due to its “unethical practices.”

Ameiya Pednekar
Ameiya Pednekar
Ameiya is an honors student at the University of Georgia studying Management Information Systems and International Business. His passions include programming, writing, and media creation.

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