What Walmart, Costco, and other famous retailers looked like when they first opened

Walmart is now the largest retailer in the world, but it was just an experimental discount store when it opened in 1962.

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Walmart is now the largest retailer in the world, but it was just an experimental discount store when it opened in 1962.
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Courtesy of the Walmart Museum
  • Many modern-day retailers that you know and love have been around for years.
  • Business Insider collected retro photographs of retailers like Costco, Walmart, and Macy’s.
  • These images show just how much retail stores have changed over the decades.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Everyone gets their start somewhere. And it’s no different for major national retailers.

Plenty of modern-day national big-box and department stores have been around for decades, undergoing the crucial changes necessary to survive in the brutal retail business. Still others maintain glimmers of their old selves, like Walmart’s perpetual focus on low prices and the warehouse layout adopted by Home Depot and Costco.

Here’s a look at early iterations of major retailers:


The first-ever Walmart store opened up on July 2, 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas.

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An early Walmart store.
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Courtesy of Walmart

Source: Business Insider


Founder Sam Walton had operated a number of Ben Franklin stores in Arkansas since 1945 and opened Walton’s Five and Dime five years after that.

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An early Walmart advertisement.
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Courtesy of the Walmart Museum

Source: Business Insider


The new Walmart chain focused specifically on discounts. It would one day become the world’s largest retailer.

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An early Walmart store.
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Courtesy of Walmart

Source: Business Insider


Macy’s Herald Square flagship store in New York City may have become famous, but the retailer didn’t get its start in Manhattan. A dry goods business that would later become Macy’s first opened its doors in Haverhill, Massachusetts, in 1851.

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Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

Source: Macy’s


Seven years later, founder Rowland Hussey Macy would take his business to the corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City.

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A Macy’s on Sixth Avenue in New York City.
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Archive Photos/Getty Images

Source: Macy’s


The company that would become Best Buy launched in 1966 as a single St. Paul, Minnesota, audio store known as Sound of Music. Sound of Music rebranded into Best Buy in 1983.

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A 1969 photo of a Sound of Music store.
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Courtesy of Best Buy

Source: MPR News


17-year-old Ingvar Kamprad first founded the business that would become Ikea in 1943, selling odds and ends like pens and picture frames.

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Ingvar Kamprad in the first Ikea store in 1958.
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Ikea

Source: Business Insider


By 1948, the business pivoted to locally sourced furniture, establishing a successful catalog business.

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Ikea

Source: Business Insider


The company built its first ever store in Älmhult, Sweden, in 1958. That inaugural store would come to have the playroom and restaurant that Ikea is still known for today.

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Ikea

Source: Business Insider


Home Depot was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 22, 1979, when twin 60,000-square-foot locations opened up for the first time on Memorial Drive and Buford Highway.

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Courtesy of The Home Depot

Source: Business Insider


These two initial Home Depots were a bit smaller than their modern counterparts, but they still had the modern retailer’s low-key warehouse layout.

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Courtesy of The Home Depot

Source: Business Insider


By the end of 1979, Home Depot had three stores, 200 employees, and a total of $81,700 in sales.

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Courtesy of The Home Depot

Source: Business Insider


Swedish immigrant John Nordstrom and Seattle shoemaker Carl Wallin met while prospecting for gold in Alaska.

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Courtesy of Nordstrom

Source: Nordstrom


In 1901, they launched the shoe store Wallin & Nordstrom in Seattle.

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Courtesy of Nordstrom

Source: Nordstrom


According to Nordstrom’s website, the company was the “largest shoe store in the country” by 1960.

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Courtesy of Nordstrom

Source: Nordstrom


Retail giant Target got its start under a completely different name over 100 years ago. George Dayton first opened the Dayton Dry Goods Company in 1881 in Minneapolis.

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Courtesy of Target

Source: Target


In 1911, the company pivoted to a department store format “after a decade of rapid growth,” according to Target’s website.

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Courtesy of Target

Source: Target


The first ever Target store launched on May 1, 1962 in Roseville, Minnesota. The new format focused on discounting.

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Courtesy of Target

Source: Target


In 1921, Lucius Lowe launched a general merchandise store called North Wilkesboro Hardware in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. But the modern day iteration of the company didn’t get started until 1946.

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Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Lowe’s, Business Insider


That’s the year when H. Carl Buchan — Lowe’s son-in-law — spun off a separate store chain focused entirely on hardware.

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Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Lowe’s, Business Insider


In 1961, exactly 40 years after Lucian Lowe opened his Wilkesboro store, Lowe’s became a publicly traded company.

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Courtesy of Lowe’s

Source: Lowe’s, Business Insider


The modern-day members-only warehouse chain we know as Costco was brought about by the 1993 merger of Price Club and Costco.

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An early Costco.
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Courtesy of Costco Wholesale

Source: Business Insider


Price Club launched in 1976, and Costco opened its doors in 1983.

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A crowd of shoppers in a Costco in 1983.
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Courtesy of Costco Wholesale

Source: Business Insider


Back then, shoppers could purchase a Costco membership for $25 or $30 a year.

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A crowd of shoppers in a Costco in 1983.
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Courtesy of Costco Wholesale

Source: Business Insider

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