any of a very large group of shops in the US selling a wide range of goods at low prices. The company also owns the Asda supermarkets in Britain. The first Wal-Mart Discount City was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton, who became one of the richest people in the US.
* * *▪ American companyU.S. operator of discount stores founded by Sam Walton (Walton, Sam) in Rogers, Arkansas (1962). With headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart focused its early growth in rural areas, thereby avoiding direct competition with other American retailing giants such as Sears (Sears, Roebuck and Company) and Kmart.As it grew, the company developed new retail formats, including Sam's Club discount warehouses (1983) and Wal-Mart Supercenters (1988). Within a decade of opening the combination grocery and merchandise Supercenters, Wal-Mart had become one of the largest grocers in the United States. An emphasis on customer attention, cost controls, and efficiencies in its distribution networks helped Wal-Mart become the largest retailer in the United States in 1990. It moved into international markets one year later with the opening of a store in Mexico, and growth continued, either through new stores or the acquisition of established retailers, in countries such as Canada, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom. By 1999 Wal-Mart had become the world's largest private employer, and by 2001, its total sales surpassed those of Exxon Mobil, ranking Wal-Mart as the largest corporation in the world. Extreme growth has not occurred without controversy; Wal-Mart has been variously criticized for contributing to urban sprawl and for perpetuating low wages. Its merchandising practices are nonetheless emulated by other retailers, and Wal-Mart continues to gain popularity with customers around the world.
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