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How Big Is Wal-Mart?

Claim:   E-mail provides statistics about the size of the Wal-Mart chain of general merchandise retail stores.

MOSTLY ACCURATE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2008]

This should boggle your mind!! And scare you as well!

1. At Wal-Mart, Americans spend $36,000,000 every hour of every day.

2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute! 5.8133333% margin

3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.

5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private employer. And most can't speak English.

6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the World.

7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only 15 years.

8. During this same period, 31 Supermarket chains sought bankruptcy (including Winn-Dixie).

9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.

10. Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had 5 years ago.

11. This year, 7.2 billion different purchasing transactions will occur at a Wal-Mart store. (Earth's population is approximately 6.5 billion.)

12. 90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.

13. Let Wal-Mart bail out Wall Street.
 

Origins:   No doubt, Wal-Mart is the behemoth of the retail business world. In November 2008, as many other retailers were retrenching while experiencing plummeting sales figures amidst a severe economic downturn, Wal-Mart's same-stores sales actually exceeded its expectations, increasing by 3.4 percent over the previous year. The figures cited above attempt to place the scale of Wal-Mart's operations in context, demonstrating how truly large it is even in comparison with the other top retails chains in the U.S.


At Wal-Mart, Americans spend $36,000,000 every hour of every day.

According to Wal-Mart's corporate fact sheet, the chain recorded $374,526,000,000 in sales for the fiscal year ending 31 January 2008. That works out to an average of $42,754,109 in sales per hour (although this figure includes worldwide revenues, not just money spent by Americans).
 

This works out to $20,928 profit every minute! 5.8133333% margin

Given the figures provided in the previous entry and this entry (sales of $36,000,000 per hour at a 5.8% profit margin), that would work out to a profit of approximately $34,880 per minute, not $20,928. For the $42,754,109 worldwide sales figure we used above, the corresponding per minute profit would be about $41,400.

Wal-Mart's income statement for fiscal 2008 reports a 5.8% operating margin, so that figure appears to be an accurate one.
 

Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.

The 76 days between January 1 to March 17 represent 20.8% of one year. If we take 20.8% of Wal-Mart's sales for fiscal 2008 ($374,526,000,000), that works out to a total of $77,901,408,000 for a 76-day period. (We acknowledge that this is only an approximation, since sales are not evenly distributed throughout the year.)

Target stores reported sales of $63,367,000,000 for fiscal 2008, so it's fair to say that Wal-Mart does indeed sell more (in dollar terms) between New Year's Day and St. Patrick's Day than Target sells all year.
 

Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target + Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.

Using Yahoo! Finance, we obtained the following yearly sales figures for fiscal 2008 for the listed retail chains:

Home Depot $77,349,000,000
Kroger $70,235,000,000
Target $63,367,000,000
Sears $50,703,000,000
Costco $72,483,020,000

In the aggregate, these five companies accounted for $334,137,020,000 in yearly sales. If sales is the metric used to determine "bigness," then Wal-Mart, with over $374,000,000,000 in yearly sales, is indeed "bigger" than these five large retailers combined.
 

Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people and is the largest private employer.

According to Wal-Mart's corporate fact sheet, the company employs 2 million associates worldwide, including 1.4 million in the United States. This makes Wal-Mart the largest private (i.e., non-government) employer in the U.S. (and, according to Wal-Mart, it is the largest employer in Mexico and one of the largest in Canada as well).
 

Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the World.

This statement is somewhat ambiguous, since it doesn't indicate what metric is being used for "bigness": Largest number of outlets? Greatest number of employees? Gross revenues? Net profits?

Fortune magazine, which ranks the world's largest corporations in its Global 500 list based on gross revenues, does indeed place Wal-Mart at #1 in that regard, with the next three contenders all being oil companies: Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP.

Forbes magazine, which ranks companies in its Global 2000 list according to four metrics (sales, profits, assets and market value), places Wal-Mart at #16.
 

Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger & Safeway combined, and keep in mind they did this in only 15 years.

In 1988 Wal-Mart developed its supercenter "one-stop family shopping" concept, which combined a full grocery and general merchandise under one roof. In the two decades since then, Wal-Mart has opened over 2,600 supercenters and has grown to become one of the nation's leading grocers. It's difficult to validate the statement made above with hard numbers since (as far as we can tell) Wal-Mart does not break down its sales figures by category, but it seems likely that Wal-Mart supercenters generate more food sales than the Kroger and Safeway grocery chains combined.
 

Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had 5 years ago.

According to Wal-Mart, as of 30 November 2008 it was operating 894 discount stores, 2,610 supercenters, 146 neighborhood markets, 599 Sam's Clubs, and 14 marketside stores in the United States, for a grand total of 4,253 retail outlets.

According to Yahoo Finance!, as of 31 January 2004 Wal-Mart was operating 1,478 discount stores, 1,471 supercenters, 538 Sam's Clubs and 64 neighborhood markets in the United States, for a grand total of 3,551 retail outlets.
 

This year, 7.2 billion different purchasing transactions will occur at a Wal-Mart store.

We haven't yet located a reliable source for statistics on the number of purchasing transactions that take place at Wal-Mart stores. (It also isn't clear what "transaction" refers to in this context. Number of customers who buy at least one item? Total number of items purchased by all customers?)
 

90% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart.

The statistic that anywhere from 90% to 94% of all Americans live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart is a frequently cited item, but we don't know the origin of that stat or how it was determined (and therefore how accurate it might be). The 2006 book The Wal-Mart Effect cites the following statistics about the proximity of U.S. consumers to Wal-Mart stores:
  • 53 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of a Wal-Mart
  • 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart
  • 97 percent of the U.S. population lives within twenty-five miles of a Wal-Mart
Last updated:   9 December 2008

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