The 10 Biggest Milestones in Wal-Mart History

Douglas A. McIntyre

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), struggling with revenue growth and its image as a company that pays its employees as little as possible, is still one of the great success stories in American corporate history.

These are the 10 major milestones in its rise to the top of the worldwide retail industry.

1. Wal-Mart reached number one in the Fortune 500. After years of competition with Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and major American car companies, it took the lead spot in 2002.

2. Wal-Mart’s global revenue crossed $400 billion in 2009, a lift from $380 billion the year before. Net income hit almost $21 billion.

3. Wal-Mart’s share price attained an all-time high of $90.97 on November 1, 2014, up from $12.25 two decades earlier.

4. Wal-Mart went public in 1970 and moved to the New York Stock Exchange in 1972.

5. Founder Sam Walton opened first Wal-Mart store on July 6, 1962.

6. Company incorporated with the Wal-Mart name in 1969.

7. The New York Times ran a major story on bribe cover-up in Wal-Mart’s Mexico operations on April 25, 2012, setting off vast investigations, both within the company and by the U.S. government. Authors David Barstow and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab won the Pulitzer Prize for this article, based on their investigative journalism, on April 5, 2013.

8. Founder Sam Walton died on April 6, 1992, after a struggle with cancer. He was only 74.

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9. Wal-Mart reached annual sales of $1 billion in 1980 and claimed that it had hit this milestone faster than any company in history.

10. Wal-Mart moves outside the United States for first time in 1991, when it began operations as part of a joint venture in Mexico.

According to Wal-Mart’s 10K for fiscal 2014, the company had over 11,000 stores in 27 countries and posted $485.7 billion in sales worldwide. Wal-Mart claims it has over 2.2. million employees, which it calls associates, worldwide. Almost 1.4 million of these are in the United States.

Much of the data for this story comes from the Wal-Mart website. Also used as sources: Fortune 500 history, Morningstar, The New York Times, SEC.