Walmart changed retailing in Texas permanently

Willis Webb
Retired newspaperman

 

Most people under 35 can’t remember life before Walmart.

Many older Texans still have some bitter feelings about Sam Walton’s “discount” store creation when it began to debut in the Lone Star State in the 1970s. Naturally, some shoppers welcomed the notion of lower prices, even if detractors said the merchandise was inferior.

Wal-Mart, as the chain’s first signage and advertising proclaimed, made such a big splash in small towns because it was generally much larger than any store in town and its marketing and advertising hit at the low price theme loudly and often.

While the discount store was considered a godsend by many shoppers, it was a pariah in other segments of business and society.

Whatever the claims were versus reality paled beside the bitterness created when mom-and-pop shops, which were not designed for volume buying or sales and thus had to charge higher prices to be profitable, began to close their doors. Those mom-and-pop-shops closures affected small towns quite adversely, particularly in Walmart’s early years.

Longtime small town residents who owned the mom-and-pop stores grumbled about their plight to very sympathetic neighbors.

For several years, Walmart killed small stores — department and/or specialty — with the low price theme emphasized through an aggressive advertising program. That increased resentment and bitterness but the chain continued a phenomenal growth pattern.

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