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Author Topic: Anyone ever hear this about Ames?  (Read 1569 times)
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TheFugitive
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« on: April 03, 2014, 07:39:47 AM »

Here is a story that was told to me by some veterans during my time at Ames in the early 90's.
Not sure how much truth there is to it, as I have never been able to confirm it independently.  But it
is an interesting tale.

The story goes that Sam Walton of Walmart fame had actually struck up a friendly relationship with
Herb Gilman, patriarch of Ames.  They were reported to have made a handshake gentleman's agreement
by which Walmart stores would continue to expand across the Southern U.S., while Ames would continue
to expand across the North.  At some future date the two of them would link-up and join hands, and thus
become the dominant retailer.  Both chains would steer clear of the other's domain until that time.

As the story has it, the gentleman's agreement came off the rails when Ames purchased the G.C. Murphy
chain out of McKeesport, PA.   G.C. Murphy had Murphy Mart stores in Louisiana.  (why I have NO idea, as
this was far outside of their historical Western PA to Indiana footprint).  I knew many old Murphy Mart veterans
during my time at Ames, and they said it was a requirement of each member of management at one time to do their
tour of duty in Louisiana (which they all absolutely HATED for various reasons).

Sam Walton had reportedly assumed that when Ames bought Murphy's they would close all Murphy Mart
locations in Louisiana.  This did not happen.  The story has it that this so incensed Walton that he dropped
the agreement and decided to enter the North and run Ames into the ground on his own accord.

Interesting story.  Don't know that it can ever be proven or disproven, as both of the principals are dead.
And surely no documentation exists, as such a agreement would have been a clear-cut violation of anti-trust
laws.

How different would the story have been if Ames had become an integral part of today's Walmart?
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Stork of The Weak
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2014, 10:32:51 PM »

How would this have broken any antitrust laws at all? I doubt this story is true though. It was 1985 that Ames bought Murphy's Mart. Not until 1990 did Walmart enter the North. I know the time in between was only five years, but in 1990 Walmart was already busy expanding/remodeling (and sometimes even relocating) their early-mid 80's batch of stores, which were primarily in the South. Ames already had started to collapse as of 1990, due to their acquisition of Zayre being a disaster from the start. A lot of the 80's Walmart stores became Bud's Discount City stores around that time. The typical 80's Walmart/90's Bud's looked just like this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/milatchi/260227727/

So more than one person told you this story? Anyway I have a theory as to why Murphy's Mart was in Louisiana. That state is a good one for retail companies to do experimenting/test marketing in (assuming they stay out of the VERY rural towns in the state) because open land is abundant and cheap. Also the state has a big city, New Orleans, but not a huge city. New Orleans is a port of entry for people from all over the world. At one time it was the city where slave owners and Confederate leaders lived a life of excess, but around 1900 became a major center of immigration not unlike NYC, becoming a city that still cherished its Southern heritage but also something of an escape from the evils of Southern culture (picture the Ku Klux Klan). But as for Louisiana as a whole being a good state for retail, it sits conveniently close to Texas and to a lesser degree Georgia and Florida, all of which are states Murphy's Mart probably wanted to enter at some point but never did.

When did the Ames stores in Louisiana close? The state isn't mentioned at all on the store locator this site has (separate from the forum section, it can be accessed via the homepage).

Bradlees, Caldor, Jamesway, Jefferson Ward, Clover, Venture, King's, Nichols, Hills, Zayre, and Woolco all went out of business (and Kmart has suffered tremendously) since Walmart became a monster in the early 80's. So I highly doubt Sam Walton needed to make any effort whatsoever to run Ames or any of these others into the ground. All Walmart had to do was open stores that were bigger and more modern than all the competition's stores, and the rest is history. And ALL those other chains had stores that were dinosaurs by the time Walmart came along. Target, Kmart, and Caldor all made an honest effort to survive, but sadly Caldor just couldn't survive the combination of Walmart and Target entering its territory (also some Caldor stores may have been near Super Kmart stores built in the 90's, but few of those survived the Kmart bankruptcy).
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TheFugitive
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 08:07:03 AM »

Good question as to when Ames closed those Louisiana Murphy Marts.   I joined the company in '88.
I honestly don't recall if any were still open then.   I do not think Ames kept them for very long.  The
story was that Walton had a fit because they did not close immediately.

I do know that Walmart did not have stores in the North at that time.  The alleged deal was that they would
stay out of the North and Ames would stay out of the South until they were ready to join up.   So at least
on paper the geography kind of fit the conspiracy theory at that time.

I had been told this story by several old GC Murphy store managers who were still with Ames at that time.
One of them had been with the company since the early 1950's.  They also said that those Louisiana stores
were in very rural locations.  Managers from up north were never very comfortable with the culture and
could not wait to get back. 

By 90-91 Walmart was making moves to break into Michigan.   Local authorities at the time were doing their
best to hold them off at the behest of Meijers and of the unions.   Basically any site they selected for a store would mysteriously become a "protected wetland".
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Stork of The Weak
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2014, 07:26:16 PM »

Speaking of Sam it's a shame he died less than a year too early to see a major "coup de grace" for Walmart. In 1993 Sam's Club bought the PACE Membership Warehouse chain from Kmart, one of the first signs of Kmart heading for failure. A lot of Super Kmart stores opened in 1993 and 1994 though.
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retailfan
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« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2014, 10:59:04 AM »

the walmart of today is not sam waltons dream  most of the expansion came after his death
the store i worked at opened in 91 Sam passed before he was able to visit that store #1728
they now have over 3000 stores
I was manager of the photo lab  at 1728 those labs now are all but gone


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