Kim Souza with our content partner, The City Wire, has been exploring the early years of Wal-Mart's origins as the company approaches its 50th anniversary.
In her latest contribution, Souza spotlights a couple who bought a handful of Wal-Mart stock in 1971 on the recommendation of a family friend who had recently gone to work for the upstart retail chain.
Joyce and George Redden borrowed $700 from an insurance policy and gathered up money in savings to in 1971 place a bet on an upstart company. At the time, the Reddens had more faith in their friend Claude Harris. They didn’t know that much about Harris’ boss, Sam Walton.
“We were a young couple in 1970 when Wal-Mart stock went public shortly after our good friend Claude Harris (part owner in a local Ben Franklin store) told us about young company’s growth potential. We lived in Springdale at the time and occasionally shopped the Wal-Mart there (Store No. 3) but didn’t really have the money to buy the stock,” Joyce Redden said.
At the time Wal-Mart stock was trading at roughly $18 a share.
The Reddens, who live in sout
h Sebastian County, said they trusted their good friend who had left his manager’s post at Ben Franklin — a retail enterprise then much larger than the pre-Wal-Mart business Walton operated — to become the first buyer for Walmart, in its infancy.
“We knew Claude had taken a leap of faith and our whole church prayed often for that young company where many our other friends had gone to work,” she said.
With faith in Harris, the Reddens purchased the 100 shares of Wal-Mart stock. That gamble paid off with nine stock splits by June of 1990. For those who purchased 100 shares of the original offering, they would have held 51,200 shares by June 1990 with a value of around $3 million.
There's much more to the story, including interviews with early employees. After opening the 12th Wal-Mart store in Helen Walton's hometown of Claremore, Okla., Sam Walton's wife declared, “I think we probably have enough of these stores.”
Read more from The City Wire at this link.