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What Your Favorite Retail Stores Used to Look Like

From Walmart to JCPenney, you won't believe how they've changed.

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walmart 1970sCourtesy the Walmart Museum


Walmart stores might be massive supercenters now, but before they took off, founder Sam Walton opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1950. After his five and dime proved successful, he went on a new venture, opening the first Walmart in 1962 with the goal of driving business with crazy-low prices. Here are some more photos of what Walmart looked like when it first opened.

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Sam's ClubCourtesy Sam's Club

Sam’s Club

In the 1980s, Sam Walton thought up a way to get customers even lower prices, and he opened the first Sam’s Club in 1983—the same year that Costco opened—to offer businesses and families in Midwest City, Oklahoma, cheap wholesale prices. Nearly 40 years later, Sam’s Club still has better deals on these 16 items than anyone else.

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JCPenneyCourtesy J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.


In 1902, James Cash Penney opened his first store, the Golden Rule, in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Eleven years later, his company went incorporated, and the founder changed the name to J.C. Penney Company. By 1958, it had transformed into the store pictured here. It stayed cash-only until 1958, when this photo was taken, when it started letting shoppers swipe their credit cards.

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Macy'sF&A Archive/Shutterstock


When Macy’s first opened its doors on 6th Avenue in New York City, it was a far cry from the retail giant it is now. In 1958, it specialized in fancy dry goods, but less than 20 years later, it expanded to take over 11 buildings on its block as it transformed into a department store. Macy’s has a big role in some other truly classic photos of historic Americana.

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The GapTOM RIGGS/AP/Shutterstock


When “The Gap” opened in 1969, it targeted itself toward young people who were battling with the “generation gap” from people their parents’ age. By 1987, where this photo was taken in San Francisco, the clothes store had opened its first international location in London and its first GapKids. Want to look even further back in time? Take a peek at the most glamorous vintage photos from the 1950s.

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Brooks BrothersThe Art Archive/Shutterstock

Brooks Brothers

Brooks Brothers is the oldest men’s clothing store in America, and it opened its doors as a small family business in New York in 1818. This is what it looked like 50 years later, after it changed the market with its ready-made clothing. Don’t miss what these 14 everyday objects looked like 100 years ago.

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H&MDavid White/Shutterstock


Before it was H&M, the women’s clothes shop that opened in 1947 was just called “Hennes,” meaning “hers” in Swedish. When it acquired apparel shop Mauritz Widforss, it switched to Hennes & Mauritz. It rebranded to “H&M” in 1974, but stores like this 1992 London location held on to some of the original branding.

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It might not have been the first place to sell Levi’s, but “The Original Levi’s Store” in 1999 featured the looks that are back in style today.

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Perhaps what’s most surprising is how little IKEA has changed since 1968 when founder Ingvar Kamprad posed in front of one of his stores. Today’s Bjurån and Norraryd chairs are reminiscent of the ones you might have found in the first 1951 catalog. Next, find out what the first locations of famous fast-food restaurants looked like.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.

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