Sol Price, in Sam Walton's memoryDecember 16, 2009: 6:37 PM ET
"I guess I've stolen--I actually prefer the word 'borrowed'-- as many ideas from Sol Price as from anybody else in the business."
--Wal-Mart (WMT) founder Sam Walton about Sol Price, who started Fed-Mart and Price Club and launched a whole new style of U.S. retailing--club stores. Price, who sold Price Club to Costco (COST) in 1993, died this week at age 93.
Made in America, Sam Walton's memoir, sits here on my shelf (Time Inc. editor in chief John Huey, my old boss, co-wrote the book)--and sure enough, Walton gives Price his due. Walton latched on to the name 'Wal-Mart' because, he wrote, "I really liked Sol's Fed-Mart name." After noticing a new class of cavernous, industrial-style outlets undercutting his own stores' already low prices, Walton went to see Sol Price in San Diego. Sam and his wife, Helen, had dinner with Sol and his wife, Helen. "I admit it. I didn't tell him at the time that I was going to copy his program, but that's what I did."
Walton returned home to Bentonville, Arkansas, went over to Oklahoma City, and rented an old building for about 90 cents a square foot--"or maybe even 75 cents," he recalled. "We remodeled it and to manage it, put together a pickup crew of mavericks to manage it who were sort of under-appreciated at Wal-Mart. " Walton opened his first warehouse-style Sam's Club in 1983--and died nine years later. Even he would be stunned to see that Wal-Mart's 602 Sam's Clubs brought in $47 billion in revenues last year.