Walmart’s origins draw on its’ populist roots.  The company germinated and grew in the Ozarks area of Arkansas.  The company started out on funding, not from the Eastern banking and loans, but rather from local folk and a little help from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which helped to fund clean, high tech jobs, military installations, and service industries in the Sun Belt region, post World War II, subsequently bringing jobs and a population base to the rural areas.  As the company grew, the targeted demographics (hard-working, no frills, agrarian, salt of the earth folk) and store locations (county seats, near military bases) appealed to the common people.

Country music bands and bar-b-q’s on the weekends, when most country folk would come to town for shopping, social, and business needs.  The company was family oriented, comfortable, and homey; a place where people knew their neighbors.  No matter which store a person visited, the feeling and ambience of each store made you feel welcome, like you were back visiting an old friend.  Women were recruited to work in stores, providing some of that nurturing feel – servicing customers was just an extension of tending to their own families.  This also reinforced the paternalistic, evangelical Christian model that the store’s founders, Sam and Helen Walton supported.  Further, the Walton family supported and encouraged the education of white-collar workers from the Sun Belt for the “family” business of stores through support of Christian higher education facilities such as the University (College) of the Ozarks.

The “modern” version of Wal-Mart is a multi-national company with a tad bit of the “hometown” atmosphere within the stores still left.  If Wal-Mart was a country, it would rank 6th in China’s export market and it’s economy would rank 30th in the world, right behind Saudi Arabia (Moreton 6).  A far cry from the “down home” attitudes of supporting small businessmen, the retail giant still comes into rural communities, ousting many mom and pop stores, ending family businesses, and creating a monopoly on shopping options.  Yet the giant is not satisfied with the small areas and readily moves into big cities, often with enough business to support several stores in the cities but some mom and pop stores are still able to hold onto their customer base despite the competition.

 

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