Decoding some of the most famous photos of 1980s Wal-Mart on the net!

Welcome back loyal reader, I apologize for the somewhat clickbaity sounding title this time. However, I promise I have not made any false claims! Let’s start out with a trip down memory lane. A recent conversation with a friend on the topic of early retail history on the net, led me to a site I hadn’t visited in a few years. Pleasant Family Shopping. By multiple accounts this is one of the earliest “pure retail” blogs or websites to gain fame. While other sites did feature malls, they were often focused around those in poor condition like Dead Malls.com (yes even 15 years ago dead malls were a problem). PFS provided a great resource in the form of detailed and at the time “high-res” photos of stores that had long since been remodeled. The blog and its author Dave, often featured posts of stores for the Mid-West and North that I was unfamiliar with, but there was of course some overlap. A great example being Wal-Mart. Looking at the photos on the “It’s a Wal-Mart World” post should bring back memories for just about anyone who has ever typed “1980s Walmart” into Google Images. The thing is, while most of these images are genuine, some have a bit of a secret behind them.

Looking at these images, you might think that maybe the secret is that they’re a bit older than the 80s. The maroon shag carpet does look very 1980s. Also, an Atari 2600?! Why would a 2600 be on display with the 5200 being that years “hot Christmas item”. Something is fishy here, well lets talk about where these photos originally came from. These pictures are actually from the 1982 Wal-Mart Stockholder Annual Report. These reports are produced and distributed to stockholders in the Wal-Mart company to provide insight as to the operations of the company. They often contained photographs of new stores with ribbon cuttings and smiling employees, so that furthers the question of what’s up with this store? Well the reality is that these photos are actually a Kuhn’s Big K that had quickly been converted into a Wal-Mart prior to the 1982 Christmas season. In 1981 Wal-Mart agreed to “merge” operations with Big K. The merger was really only from a legal standpoint as all Big K stores were converted or closed by the end of 1982.

3 comments

  1. It’s great to see the Pleasant Family Shopping blog get a mention on the blog. That was one of the great early retail blogs and so many retail enthusiasts, and even non-enthusiasts, left comments on that blog about their memories of shopping at the old stores that they covered. Sadly, the blog seems to be about as dead as most of the retailers covered in the blog, but at least the old articles and photos are still available for those who want to read them.

    It should be mentioned to anyone who does not know, but Kuhn’s Big K is not to be confused for Big Kmart. That name always seems to throw some people off, lol!

    If any of your readers are interested in content like what is in this post, all I can suggest is to keep tuned to the Houston Historic Retail blog because there will be a guest blog post coming soon from yours truly that will really be of interest!

    1. You’d have to be crazy to confuse the two! Kuhn’s is from the early 20th Century and Big Kmart was a 1997 last ditch effort. Excited for the next post!

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