Money - Business
By: - at October 18, 2013

15 Interesting Facts about Walmart

Whether you love it or hate it, like most of the U.S. and a growing portion of the world population, you are starting to shop at Walmart for one reason or another. Walmart has introduced many towns and cities to the concept of the modern superstore, providing convenient one-stop shopping and 24-hour service. It has incited profound changes in the way many businesses are run, and it has influenced the availability and cost of goods across many markets. The changes Walmart has made as far as the sale of consumer goods affects your lifestyle, whether you are an avid Walmart shopper or you intentionally choose to shop elsewhere. Walmart has became a household name not only in the U.S. but also internationally. Behind its familiarity is a very complex corporation with intricate workings, record annual profits, and a long evolutionary history.

Walmart

Walmart started as a small regional chain and from its humble beginnings, Walmart has grown into the retail powerhouse that it is today. 


15)  It’s a Top Destination
Walmart is the most frequently requested destination on the Telenav GPS device. If you’re a parent moving your child into their dorm or a traveler whose forgotten toiletries, you’ve probably at one time or another asked, "Where is the nearest Walmart?" When you move to a new town, even before asking about the local school district or nightlife, you’ll probably end up asking where the closest Walmart is located. Like many other national chains, Walmart has become a brand that consumers have come to rely on. There are regional variations, but Walmart's core inventory is determined and distributed by a centrally controlled hub. What this means for consumers is that they can walk into any Walmart and find their favorite brand of toothpaste or preferred brand of paper towels. 

Jeff Gearhart - General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Jeff Gearhart - General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Walmart

Walmart superstores attract recent arrivals to an area by offering programs like four-dollar prescriptions and discounted automotive services. Finding a good drugstore and pharmacist takes time, and finding a good mechanic can even take a lifetime of trial and error. Walmart’s commitment to their own corporate standards and many convenient locations, help to provide a friendly and predictable experience for those who have just moved to a new area. There’s a certain piece of mind in finding no surprises and just good service. Walmart takes pride in their ability to provide a consistent experience for their customers, regardless of a certain store's location. 


14)  It Has Secret Aliases
These aliases are actually not secretive at all. Many Walmart stores in foreign countries—The Winston-Salem Journal cites that 8,500 of the chain’s overseas outlets—are conducting business under completely different names. Around 55 different names, in fact. The most well-known are Walmex in Mexico, Best Price in India, Asda in the United Kingdom, and Seiyu in Japan. The superstore has also bought out operations in a few different countries, including Woolworth’s in Canada.

Walmart India Associates
Walmart India Associates

Walmart first ventured into the international market back in 1991, and opened its first store in Mexico. Since that time, the retail giant has taken on the world and expanded their operations as far away as Asia. Some of its ventures—such as those in Germany and Korea—failed miserably, but namely their Asda chain in the U.K. is performing quite well. Their Seiyu brand in Japan is also showing some promising growth.

Walmart's U.K. Asda Chain
Walmart's U.K. Asda Chain
By Dorsetdude, via Wikimedia Commons

While they’re Russian operations are struggling, Walmart hasn’t given up just yet. The corruptive nature of doing business in Russian is the major obstacle for the chain store, and it remains to be seen what will come out of Walmart's activities in the fallen Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the Best Price brand in India has had some difficulty as well, but is slowly showing some promising future profits.

Global Walmart Locations (Current in Blue - Former in Red)
Global Walmart Locations (Current in Blue - Former in Red)
By Andershalden via Wikimedia Commons

Success in India will be up to winning over shoppers by following the U.S. model of buying directly from local farmers, and by doing so dictating local agricultural markets by cutting out middlemen.


13)  It’s Always Had Unstoppable Growth
When Sam Walton built his first 5&10 store, he had no idea the global phenomenon he was setting into motion. Simply looking to make a living in a place that would give his family the small-town atmosphere they desired, his own drive to save money and still have a strong quality of life created a vision that would last long past his lifetime.

Sam Walton's Original Walton's Five and Dime Store
Sam Walton's Original Walton's Five and Dime Store
By Bobak, via Wikimedia Commons

Anyone who doubted the possibility of being profitable by offering more for less, soon had to change their mind. Sam’s first Walmart brand store opened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Just five years later in 1967, his chain of stores had grown to 24 stores with 12.7 million dollars in annual sales.

Image of Sam Walton Welcoming Visitors to a Newly Opened Sam's Club in Shanghai
Image of Sam Walton Welcoming Visitors to a Newly Opened Sam's Club in Shanghai

The five-year mark is usually considered a good indicator of whether a business is destined for success or failure. Many entrepreneurs and business managers stipulate that if a businesses is going to succeed, it should start at least breaking even within five years. Under ideal circumstances, the business in question should become profitable by the end of this five year litmus test. Sam Walton's Walmart surpassed many business analysts' expectations, and laid an excellent foundation for further expansion and Walmart's domination of the consumer goods market.


12)  Their Relationship with China Runs Deep
You probably already know that alongside many of the Made in U.S.A. products that the discount chain brags they stock their shelves with, a lot of goods in Walmart stores are made overseas and are imported in an attempt to lower their overall per unit cost. Exports made from China to Walmart account for 11 percent of all annual U.S. trade with the Chinese. This is a large chunk of the ever growing trade deficit the U.S. has been experiencing since the 1980s.

Chinese Walmart Employee
Chinese Walmart Employee

What is unusual about China is that it has a federal union for all its workers. Walmart carries a historically heavy anti-union stance, particularly for their U.S. stores. What has led to preserving Walmart's historically anti-union stance even in countries like China where unions are guaranteed for all workers, is the sheer amount of money that Walmart generates through annual sales and foreign imports. By being a buying powerhouse, Walmart is able to circumvent many foreign regulations that have led many around the world to look down on Walmart in this respect. Concerns over how Walmart treats its foreign workers have been raised, but at the same time, these worries haven’t made much of an impact on Walmart's market share or bottom line. Whatever its business practices, a lot of consumers are approving of Walmart's actions by continuing to purchase goods from Walmart. By purchasing large quantities of goods from around the world, Walmart has gained quite a deal of geopolitical leverage that is almost equivalent to that of a sovereign nation. 


11)  Walmart is Serious about Infrastructure
In 2010, Walmart poured 12 billion dollars into expansions and maintenance of its retail facilities, as well as into other capital expenditures. This is more than the entire budget of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and is more than was spent by the state of California in 2010 on infrastructure and education. The retail giant has the world’s largest truck fleet at its disposal, and its operations require the use of the world’s largest computer system. Walmart's truck fleet and computer system even dwarf the defense and operations network available to the Pentagon.

Old Logo on Cart Rack and New Logo on Store Exterior
Old Logo on Cart Rack and New Logo on Store Exterior
By Daniel Case, via Wikimedia Commons

Walmart’s continuing success is now reliant on keeping its brand fresh in the eyes of consumers, and maintaining competitive prices and the easy shopping experience it advertises. Since the initial success of the superstore model for the chain, it has expanded and renovated many of its basic discount outlets to offer new shopping experiences—you may remember getting a “new” Walmart in your town back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. If your local outlet was one of the early adopters, you may also remember the switch from the inclusion of a McDonald’s restaurant to a Subway when concerns about health issues were raised. Walmart isn’t afraid to make changes in infrastructure to rise to the challenge of maintaining retail success.


10)  Walmart Chains Cover Enough Space to be Their Own City—And Then Some
Walmart stores parking lots alone cover an area that together is roughly the size of Tampa, Florida. Its retail space within outlets totals 900 million square feet, and if all the stores were combined, they would make up somewhere around 34 square miles of space. The total area of the island of Manhattan, including land and water, comes out to 33.77 square miles.

Walmart Supercenter in Săo Paulo, Brazil
Walmart Supercenter in Săo Paulo, Brazil
By Eugeni Dodonov from Săo Paulo, Brazil, via Wikimedia Commons

Does time seem to speed magically ahead when you’re in Walmart? Ever notice that you go in for just a few items but somehow you don’t come out until an hour later? Particularly the supercenter’s supersized retail floor factors directly contribute to Walmart’s business success. This leaves room for lots of inventory, assuring that they have exactly what you want in stock and on display. Walmart's big box model relies on store designs that lead you through the aisles and across departments to complete your purchase, boosting the chance you’ll see something else you need and make an impulsive purchase. Special displays and end caps serve the same purpose, slowing down your travel across the store, grabbing your attention and hopefully grabbing some more money out of your wallet. 


9)  It Has an Economy Bigger Than Many Countries
Walmart’s land grab and continuing expansion of retail space is paying off, resulting in sales figures that, if it represented the GDP of a nation of a similar size, would put much of the world to shame. In 2012, the Dayton Daily News reported that the corporate enterprise pulled in $444 billon, outdoing the entire country of Denmark. This would make the “country” of Walmart 26th in the global economy. Maybe alongside its many other products and services, Walmart should offer classes in international business for economic leaders concerned about their nation’s wealth.

Walmart Financial Powerhouse

Opponents of the chain often claim that Walmart improves its sales by causing the shutdown of local businesses with strategic competition. It’s important to remember that Walmart also installs satellite stores in rural areas and because of its national inventory, is able to locally provide a wider selection of goods and services to people living in remote areas. In many places, Walmart may be the only store handling needed merchandise. In other cases, the extra benefits of the superstore—salon, optometrist, photography studio, and bank—grab a higher percentage of spending from busy families like yours, because it reduces the time and gas costs of running errands to multiple stores.


8)  Walmart Holds a Quarter of the Grocery Market
Before implementing its superstore model, Walmart had a limited selection of groceries that grabbed customer attention, but did little against the full-service supermarkets elsewhere in town. With the arrival of supercenters came stiff competition within those markets, as Walmart began offering the same bakery services, fresh meat, seafood, and produce, as well as a selection of perishables that many customers had come to expect from their local grocers. With their direct buys from producers and central distribution structure, Walmart was able to offer these same goods to you at a generally lower price than many grocery chains, as even larger regional or national chains still didn't have the same wholesale buying power to lower their own costs.

Walmart Grocery Market
By Maryland Pride, via Wikimedia Commons

Because of this, Walmart holds one quarter of the grocery market in the U.S.—that’s one out of every four dollars spent. While that doesn’t seem significant out of context, keep in mind no other single chain—including Target, Costco, or Kroger—has been able to command nearly this large a share.


7)  It’s a Litigation Magnet
Walmart has deep pockets and has made some controversial administration moves. No matter what its policy practices, a store system this big is bound to draw legal complaints, and Walmart certainly has its share. Numbers have been improving on this front—supposedly—but a peak in 2000 saw 4,851 suits against the giant over the course of 12 months. This comes out to about one suit every two hours.

Walmart's Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas
Walmart's Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas
By Brandonrush via Wikimedia Commons

The suits range in content, with the most high profile being gender and racial discrimination among its employees. Individual Walmart stores have been accused of racist management, and of keeping in place policies designed to create a glass ceiling for female employees in many outlets. It’s true that most of the women in Walmart’s labor force are cashiers, and many fewer are executives. Several class-action suits have been filed against the chain over this and other labor issues, each tending to surface in the news for a short span and then disappearing again. While this litigation is the most concerning, it isn’t the most common. The majority of Walmart’s time in court is spent handling individual suits by those injured on the vast properties held by the retailer often caused by slip-and-fall accidents, falling merchandise, or other unsafe conditions that occur at many large stores because of natural human oversight.


6)  It Pays to be King
Coming in as vice-chairman of Walmart’s International Division, the current CEO of Walmart, Michael T. Duke, makes roughly 35 million dollars every year. When this salary figure is broken down into a regular hourly wage it means that at just under $17,000, the company head makes in one hour what the majority of his employees make in an entire year.

Michael T. Duke
Michael T. Duke
By World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons

Is the pay fair? Some say no, others say yes, pointing out his nearly 25 years of experience with the company and Walmart’s continued success under his delegation. Michael Duke also holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering. Just for reference, the current median salary for an industrial engineer as about 70,000 dollars a year in the U.S., with a B.S. and two to five years of experience. It’s unquestionable that Mr. Duke has at least achieved some notable success with his move to a business career.


5)  Walmart’s Inventory is Really Bananas
Walmart’s success lies in giving you as a customer exactly what you want. In 2009, that was apparently bananas, which lists them as the most sold item during that year. Fresh produce is a huge draw for the retailer, who has direct buyers able to lower purchasing costs in negotiations, making fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible to many populations who might not be able to afford them otherwise.

Locally Grown Produce at Walmart
Locally Grown Produce at Walmart

Besides more common merchandise, though, Walmart goes above and beyond in the idea of being a one-stop shop that truly fulfills all of your needs as a customer in a way that lowers your cost of life—and death. The retailer offers a line of discounted coffins, pet caskets, and cremation urns that it will ship directly to your home. If you factor in Walmart’s extensive baby and toddler department, at least you can truly say this store is dedicated to your requirements from start to finish.


4)  Walmart Offers Video Streaming
Moving away from morbid subjects, Walmart started breaking into the new media market in 2010. Its content delivery is not direct in the sense that it comes from the corporate brand itself, but it acquired the video service Vudu in March of that year. Walmart continues to hold it, offering pay-as-you-go rentals and purchases for both TVs and browsers. Walmart considers itself to be competitive with the subscription models of other streaming companies by combining their service with the pricing structure of a traditional video rental service.

vudu movies

The emerging Walmart Entertainment department has recently started offering a “Disc to Digital” program that allows you to purchase a digital copy of older movies you own at your local participating Walmart store so that you can store them on the cloud, and stream them on mobile devices or through a browser. While some people have already found their own software for ripping DVDs, this is a safe, legal way to obtain digital copies, especially if you lack the technological know-how to do it yourself.


3)  Walmart Employs 2.2 Million People
If you were to turn the enormous retail space of Walmart into its own city, it would be able to populate it with its employees. This figure points out that this is just over the population figure for Houston, Texas. If Walmart were to militarize, it would become the world’s second largest army and could only be surpassed by the Chinese.

Walmart associates

Walmart creates jobs—300 per new store by its own count—and while many of these are minimum wage for their state and often now are part-time, the retailer heavily emphasizes promotion from within as a policy. According to its own corporate stats, Walmart boasts that it promotes about 160,000 employees a year to positions with higher wages with greater responsibilities. Towns still court the store over much of the country, and 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 15 minutes of a Walmart. Further, USA Today notes that Walmart will soon begin offering benefits for its employees’ domestic partners with no proof required of relationship, for those who do have the company’s insurance plan. This includes same-sex couples, and with the sway Walmart has as a retailer, it is a sound vote for equal rights.


2)  Its Employees are Passionate and Dedicated
Fact number three may help explain this one. 300,000 employees have greater than 10 years of service at the retail chain. One associate in particular has been with Store 14 in Missouri for 50 years. Whatever they may lack, Walmart jobs represent stable employment often for sectors of the workforce that may have difficulty obtaining and holding jobs. For example, single mothers and those re-entering the workforce with long gaps in employment history have found successful employment with Walmart. For those with the aspiration, Walmart encourages long-term employees into more ambitious positions, taking advantage of their experience to build a management team that understands this retail business from the ground up.

Walmart Team Members
Walmart Team Members

Some employees choose memorable ways of expressing their gratitude to their employer. The labor force at one store in Shenzen, China, has developed its own fight song that includes the lyrics “My heart is filled with pride” and “I long to tell you how deep my love for Walmart is.” Maybe most employees wouldn’t go to these extremes, but clearly this corporation has been a benefit to many.


1)  Even Its Name is Frugal
Walmart has come to mean low prices and careful spending through its cost saving reputation, but even the history of this retailers name itself reveals the depth of Sam Walton’s values when it comes to money. The Week UK explains that the name Walmart, was the idea of Walton’s shop assistant Bob Bogle. Bogle discussed with Walton the fact that it would be cheaper than Walton’s Mart because the 7 letters of Wal-mart would be cheaper not just in the cost of the needed neon signage, but in maintaining the sign as well. This was largely due to the set-up of neon displays used on storefronts at the time. Walton bought into the idea immediately, as it exemplified the philosophy he wanted to implement in the entire company. That philosophy was saving money wherever they could as a company in order pass those savings on to their customers in the form of lower prices. 

Walmart's Ad-Match Guarantee
Walmart's Ad-Match Guarantee

The same article chronicling this piece of Walmart history was written in honor of Walmart once again not just making, but topping, the Forbes Fortune 500 list. Sam Walton's commitment to efficiency and cost cutting went far beyond simple factors like signage, but to all aspects of his business. This commitment to efficiency made his company one of the most profitable and successful retail goliaths of all time. 


Final Words
Walmart occupies strange places in the minds of consumers, popping up in a variety of modern world issues from distribution to trade, from labor to gender and marriage equality. For some, Walmart is the epitome of all that is evil, and stands as a symbol of corporate greed and poor labor practices. For others, Walmart is a means to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in a shrinking middle class, standing as a retailer that supports families by keeping prices as low as possible to maximize a family's purchasing power. Walmart is a large, world-wide employer, and not only provides employment, but is a huge player in the demand for many agricultural products, electronics, and other goods. The retail giant’s influence is inescapable, and its influence on modern American life is undisputed in its myriad of effects. Walmart still serves as a major business model in learning cost-saving practices for any enterprise, and its practices are highly enviable by many other retail chains. What makes Walmart unsettling for its detractors may very well be their market dominance. Walmart is not a faceless corporation plagued with greed and ruthless business practices. Walmart is a true story of one man's American Dream coming to fruition, that would lead to a multibillion dollar, multinational retail success. 



 

 

 

 

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