Wal-Mart Tops Fortune 500

Apr 01, 2002

Wal-Mart propelled itself from rural Arkansas, where it was founded in 1962, to the top of the Fortune 500 this year. Sam Walton, Wal-Mart’s founder, pushed sales growth relentlessly while squeezing costs with sophisticated information technology, according to Fortune. He exhorted employees to sell better with quasi-biblical precepts like the “ten-foot rule” (greet customers if they are that close). He was, in other words, an early evangelist for the first commandment of today’s economy: Service rules.

Wal-Mart’s achievement caps a bigger economic shift–from producing goods to providing services, which has been happening for years. Manufacturing’s share of U.S. employment peaked in 1953, at 35 percent. It has been declining steadily since. In the decade that will end in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures that goods-producing industries (brawny work like mining, construction, and manufacturing) will create 1.3 million new jobs, compared to 20 million for service industries.

Moderator Comment: What are the biggest challenges/opportunities
ahead for Wal-Mart as it continues to try and expand its business?

Don’t look for Imus Brothers (www.autobodyexpress.com)
coffee, salsa or clothing on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart anytime soon.
Don Imus had the following observations on Wal-Mart’s rise to the top on today’s
Imus in the Morning syndicated radio program. To paraphrase: Wal-Mart
has made it to number one on the Fortune list because it pays its employees
so little that the only place they can afford to shop is Wal-Mart. (It was funny
when he said it.) [George
Anderson – Moderator

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