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Sam Walton: King Of The Discounters

The legendary retailer relentlessly studied and borrowed from rivals

As part of its anniversary celebration, BusinessWeek is presenting a series of weekly profiles for the greatest innovators of the past 75 years. Some made their mark in science or technology; others in management, finance, marketing, or government. In late September, 2004, BusinessWeek will publish a special commemorative issue on Innovation.

In 1967, a lean, tanned visitor from Arkansas came to see Kurt Barnard, then the head of a discount retailers' trade group in New York. Barnard recalls promising the man 10 minutes. But for more than two hours, the intense Sam Walton grilled him on every aspect of discounting, taking notes all the while.