For most of us, Sam’s Club has always been a part of our broader Walmart family. But
there is a small group of associates responsible for starting it, building it and shaping
it into what it is today. It is with deep sadness and the fondest of memories that we
share the passing of Ron Loveless, one of the great leaders in our history and the first
to lead Sam’s Club. Ron passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.
Ron began his career in retail as a Stock Associate at one of Sam Walton’s early Ben
Franklin stores. Sam later made him an Assistant Manager at Walmart Store #4 in
Siloam Springs, Ark., and then promoted him to Store Manager in Newport, Ark. Due
in great part to his innovative nature, Ron rose through the ranks as Walmart grew –
from a series of Store Manager positions to District Manager, Regional Vice President,
and to Vice President and GMM of Hardlines. It was at this point in his career that Sam
asked Ron to helm the new Sam’s Club format.
According to Ron, Sam’s Club was a true manifestation of Sam’s approach to “stack
‘em high and watch ‘em fly,” and he took the company on its upward path of growth
and success. Ron proved to be incredibly open-minded as he helped develop the club
channel concept, always looking for new and different ways to serve members. He had
a merchant’s heart and was particularly excited about the treasure hunt at Sam’s Club.
In 1986, Ron decided to retire from the company.
As a retiree, Ron often visited with and mentored our company’s leaders, sharing his
learnings from Sam Walton. These learnings were also captured in his book “Walmart
Inside Out.” One of the things Ron wrote about was the “Loveless Economic Indicator
Report,” a humorous and fictitious report he and Sam shared with Wall Street
Analysts, some of whom took it seriously. In the report, the health of the economy
was assessed by the number of dead chickens on the highway. If there were none,
there was scarcity and hard times; people were picking up the chickens for dinner. If
there were many, times were good and food was plentiful. Ron and Sam would do
their best to share the report with straight faces.
Since the time Ron left the company until his passing, he was an enthusiastic
supporter of Bentonville’s Youth Baseball League and The Walmart Museum. Above all,
he was a loving husband, father and grandfather.