Whether you love it or hate it, like most of the U.S. and a growing portionof the world population, you are starting to shop at Walmart for one reason oranother. Walmart has introduced many towns and cities to the concept of themodern superstore, providing convenient one-stopshopping and 24-hour service. It has incited profound changes in the way manybusinesses are run, and it has influenced the availability and cost of goodsacross many markets. The changes Walmart has made as far as the sale of consumergoods affects your lifestyle, whether you are an avid Walmart shopper or youintentionally choose to shopelsewhere. Walmart has became a household name not only in the U.S. but alsointernationally. Behind its familiarity is a very complex corporation with intricate workings,record annual profits, and a long evolutionary history.
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 requesteddestination on the Telenav GPS device. If you’re a parent moving your child intotheir dorm or a traveler whose forgottentoiletries, you’ve probably at one time or another asked, “Where is the nearestWalmart?” When you moveto a new town, even before asking about the local school district or nightlife, you’llprobably end up asking where the closest Walmart is located. Like many other national chains, Walmarthas become a brand that consumers have come to rely on. There are regionalvariations, but Walmart’s core inventory is determined and distributed by a centrallycontrolled hub. What this means for consumers is that they can walk into any Walmartand find their favorite brand of toothpaste or preferred brand of paper towels.
Jeff Gearhart – General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Wal-Mart Stores,Inc.
Walmart superstores attract recent arrivals to an area by offering programs like four-dollar prescriptions and discounted automotiveservices.Finding a good drugstore and pharmacist takes time, and finding a good mechaniccan even take a lifetime of trial and error. Walmart’s commitment to their owncorporate standards and many convenient locations, help to provide a friendlyand predictable experience for those who have just moved to a new area. There’sa certain piece of mind in finding no surprises and just good service. Walmarttakes pride in their ability to provide a consistent experience for theircustomers, regardless of a certain store’s location.
14) It Has Secret Aliases
These aliases are actually not secretive at all. Many Walmart stores inforeign countries—The Winston-Salem Journal cites that 8,500 of the chain’s overseasoutlets—are conducting business undercompletely different names. Around 55 different names, in fact. The mostwell-known are Walmex in Mexico, Best Price in India, Asda in the UnitedKingdom, and Seiyu in Japan. The superstore has also bought out operations in afew different countries, including Woolworth’s in Canada.
Walmart India Associates
Walmart first ventured into the international market back in 1991, and openedits first store in Mexico. Since that time, the retail giant has taken on theworld and expanded their operations as far away as Asia. Some of itsventures—such as those in Germany and Korea—failed miserably, but namely their Asdachain in the U.K. is performing quite well. Their Seiyu brand in Japan is alsoshowing some promising growth.
Walmart’s U.K. Asda Chain
While they’re Russian operations are struggling, Walmarthasn’t given up just yet. The corruptive nature of doing business in Russian isthe major obstacle for the chain store, and it remains to be seen what will comeout of Walmart’s activities in the fallen Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the BestPrice 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)
Success in India will be upto winning over shoppers by following theU.S. model of buying directly from local farmers, and by doing so dictatinglocal agriculturalmarkets 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 hewas setting into motion. Simply looking to make a living in a place that wouldgive his family the small-town atmosphere they desired, his own drive to savemoney and still have a strong quality of life created a vision that would lastlong past his lifetime.
Sam Walton’s Original Walton’s Five and Dime Store
Anyone who doubted the possibility of being profitable by offeringmore for less, soon had to change their mind. Sam’s first Walmart brand storeopened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Just five years later in 1967, his chain ofstores had grown to 24 stores with 12.7 million dollars in annual sales.
Image of Sam Walton Welcoming Visitors to a Newly OpenedSam’s Club in Shanghai
The five-year mark is usually considered a good indicator of whether abusiness is destined for success or failure. Many entrepreneurs and businessmanagers stipulate that if a businesses is going to succeed, itshould start at least breaking even within five years. Under idealcircumstances, the business in question should become profitable by the end of thisfive year litmus test. Sam Walton’s Walmart surpassed many business analysts’expectations, and laid an excellent foundation for further expansion andWalmart’s dominationof the consumer goods market.
12) TheirRelationship with China Runs Deep
You probably already know that alongside many of the Made in U.S.A. productsthat the discount chain brags they stock their shelves with, a lot of goods inWalmart stores are made overseas and areimported in an attempt to lower their overall per unit cost. Exportsmade from China to Walmart account for 11 percent of all annual U.S. trade withthe Chinese. This is a large chunk of the ever growing trade deficit the U.S.has been experiencing since the 1980s.
Chinese Walmart Employee
What is unusual about China is that it has a federal union for all itsworkers. Walmart carries a historically heavy anti-union stance, particularlyfor their U.S. stores. What has led to preserving Walmart’s historicallyanti-union stance even in countries like China where unions are guaranteed forall workers, is the sheer amount of money that Walmart generates through annualsales and foreign imports. By being a buying powerhouse, Walmart is able tocircumvent many foreign regulations that have led many around the world to lookdown on Walmart in this respect. Concerns over how Walmart treats its foreign workers havebeen raised, but at the same time, these worries haven’t made much of an impacton Walmart’s market share or bottom line. Whatever its businesspractices, a lot of consumers are approving of Walmart’s actions by continuingto purchase goods from Walmart. By purchasing large quantities of goods fromaround the world, Walmart has gained quite a deal of geopolitical leverage thatis 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 ofits retail facilities, as well as into other capital expenditures. This is morethan the entire budget of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and is more than wasspent by the state of California in 2010 on infrastructure and education. Theretail giant has the world’s largest truck fleet at its disposal, and itsoperations require the use of the world’s largest computer system. Walmart’struck fleet and computer system even dwarf the defense and operations networkavailable to the Pentagon.
Old Logo on Cart Rack and New Logo on Store Exterior
Walmart’s continuing success is now reliant on keeping its brand fresh in theeyes of consumers, and maintaining competitive prices and the easy shopping experienceit 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 newshopping experiences—you may remember getting a “new” Walmart in your town backin the late ‘90s and early 2000s. If your local outlet was one of the earlyadopters, you may also remember the switch from the inclusion of a McDonald’srestaurant to a Subway when concerns about health issues were raised. Walmartisn’t afraid to make changes in infrastructure to rise to the challenge ofmaintaining retail success.
10) Walmart Chains Cover Enough Space to be Their Own City—And Then Some
Walmart stores parking lots alone cover anarea that together is roughly the size of Tampa, Florida. Its retail spacewithin outlets totals 900 million square feet, and if all the stores werecombined, they would make up somewhere around 34 square miles of space. Thetotal area of the island of Manhattan, including land and water, comes out to33.77 square miles.
Walmart Supercenter in Sгo Paulo, Brazil
Does time seem to speed magically ahead when you’re in Walmart? Ever noticethat 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 directlycontribute to Walmart’s business success. This leaves room for lotsof inventory, assuring that they have exactly what you want in stock and ondisplay. Walmart’s bigbox model relies on store designs that lead you through the aisles and acrossdepartments to complete your purchase, boosting the chance you’ll see somethingelse you need and make an impulsive purchase. Special displays and end capsserve the same purpose, slowing down your travel across the store, grabbing yourattention 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 asimilar size, would put much of the world to shame. In 2012, the Dayton Daily Newsreported that the corporate enterprise pulled in $444 billon, outdoing the entirecountry of Denmark. This would make the “country” of Walmart 26th in the global economy. Maybe alongside its many other products andservices, Walmart should offer classes in international business for economicleaders concerned about their nation’s wealth.
Opponents of the chain often claim that Walmart improves its sales by causingthe shutdown of local businesses with strategic competition. It’s important toremember that Walmart also installs satellite stores in rural areasand because of its national inventory, is able to locally provide a widerselection of goods and services to people living in remote areas. In many places, Walmartmay be the only store handling needed merchandise. In other cases, the extrabenefits of the superstore—salon, optometrist, photography studio, and bank—graba higher percentage of spending from busy families like yours, because itreduces 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 ofgroceries that grabbed customer attention, but did little against the full-service supermarkets elsewhere in town. With the arrival of supercenterscame stiff competition within those markets, as Walmart began offering the samebakery services, fresh meat, seafood, and produce, as well as a selection ofperishables that many customers had come to expect from their local grocers. With theirdirect buys from producers and central distribution structure, Walmart was ableto offer these same goods to you at a generally lower price than many grocerychains, as even larger regional or national chains still didn’t have the samewholesale buying power to lower their own costs.
Because of this, Walmart holds one quarter of thegrocery 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 singlechain—including Target, Costco, or Kroger—has been able to command nearly thislarge a share.
7) It’s a Litigation Magnet
Walmart has deep pockets and has made some controversial administrationmoves. No matter what its policy practices, a store system this big is bound todraw legal complaints, and Walmart certainly has its share. Numbers have beenimproving on this front—supposedly—but a peak in 2000 saw 4,851 suits againstthe giant over the course of 12 months. Thiscomes out to about one suit every two hours.
Walmart’s Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas
The suits range in content, with the most high profile being gender andracial discrimination among its employees. Individual Walmart stores have beenaccused of racist management, and of keeping in place policies designed tocreate a glass ceiling for female employees in many outlets. It’s true that mostof the women in Walmart’s labor force are cashiers, and many fewer areexecutives. Several class-action suits have been filed against the chain overthis and other labor issues, each tending to surface in the news for a shortspan 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 spenthandling individual suits by those injured on the vast properties held by theretailer often caused by slip-and-fall accidents, falling merchandise, or otherunsafe conditions that occur at many large stores because of natural humanoversight.
6) It Pays to be King
Coming in as vice-chairman of Walmart’s International Division, the currentCEO of Walmart, Michael T. Duke, makes roughly 35 million dollars every year.When this salary figure is broken down into a regularhourly wage it means that at just under $17,000, the company head makes in onehour what the majority of his employees make in an entire year.
Michael T. Duke
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 hisdelegation. Michael Duke also holds a Bachelor of Science in industrialengineering. Just forreference, the current median salary for an industrial engineeras about 70,000 dollars a year in the U.S., with a B.S. and two to five years ofexperience. It’s unquestionable that Mr. Duke has at least achieved some notablesuccess 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. In2009, that was apparently bananas, which lists them as the most sold item duringthat year. Fresh produce is a huge draw for theretailer, who has direct buyers able to lower purchasing costs in negotiations,making fresh fruit and vegetables more accessible to many populations who mightnot be able to afford them otherwise.
Locally Grown Produce at Walmart
Besides more common merchandise, though, Walmart goes above and beyond in theidea of being a one-stop shop that truly fulfills all of your needs as acustomer in a way that lowers your cost of life—and death. The retailer offers aline of discounted coffins, pet caskets, and cremation urns that it will shipdirectly to your home. If you factor in Walmart’s extensive baby and toddlerdepartment, at least you can truly say this store is dedicated to yourrequirements from start to finish.
4) Walmart Offers Video Streaming
Moving away from morbid subjects, Walmart started breaking into the new mediamarket in 2010. Its content delivery is not direct in the sense that it comesfrom the corporate brand itself, but it acquired the video service Vudu in Marchof that year. Walmart continues to hold it, offering pay-as-you-go rentals andpurchases for both TVs and browsers. Walmart considers itself to be competitive with the subscriptionmodels of other streaming companies by combining their service with the pricingstructure of a traditional video rental service.
The emerging Walmart Entertainment department has recently started offering a“Disc to Digital” program that allows you to purchase a digital copy of oldermovies you own at your local participating Walmart store so that you can storethem on the cloud, and stream them on mobile devices or through a browser. Whilesome people have already found their own software for ripping DVDs, this is asafe, legal way to obtain digital copies, especially if you lack thetechnological 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, itwould be able to populate it with its employees. This figure points out that this is just over the population figurefor Houston, Texas. If Walmart were to militarize, it would become the world’ssecond largest army and could only be surpassed by the Chinese.
Walmart creates jobs—300 per new store by its own count—and while many ofthese are minimum wage for their state and often now are part-time, theretailer heavily emphasizes promotion from within as a policy. According to its owncorporate stats, Walmart boasts that it promotes about 160,000 employees a yearto positions with higher wages with greater responsibilities. Towns still court thestore over much of the country, and 90 percent of the U.S. population liveswithin 15 minutes of a Walmart. Further, USAToday notes that Walmart will soon begin offering benefits for its employees’domestic partners with no proof required of relationship, for those who do havethe 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. Oneassociate in particular has been with Store 14 in Missouri for 50 years.Whatever they may lack, Walmart jobs represent stable employment often for sectors ofthe workforce that may have difficulty obtaining and holding jobs. For example, single mothersand those re-entering the workforce with long gaps in employment history havefound successful employment with Walmart. Forthose with the aspiration, Walmart encourages long-term employees into moreambitious positions, taking advantage of their experience to build a managementteam that understands this retail business from the ground up.
Walmart Team Members
Some employees choose memorable ways of expressing their gratitude to theiremployer. The labor force at one store in Shenzen, China, has developed its own fight song that includes the lyrics “Myheart is filled with pride” and “I long to tell you how deep my love for Walmartis.” Maybe most employees wouldn’t go to these extremes, but clearly thiscorporation has been a benefit to many.
1) Even Its Name is Frugal
Walmart has come to mean low prices and careful spending through its costsaving reputation, but even the history of this retailers name itself revealsthe depth of Sam Walton’s values when it comes to money. The Week UK explainsthat the name Walmart, was the idea of Walton’s shop assistant Bob Bogle. Boglediscussed with Walton the fact that it would be cheaper than Walton’s Martbecause the 7 letters of Wal-mart would be cheaper not just in the cost of theneeded neon signage, but in maintaining the sign as well. This was largely dueto the set-up ofneon displays used on storefronts at the time. Walton bought into the ideaimmediately, asit exemplified the philosophy he wanted to implement in the entire company. Thatphilosophy was saving money wherever they could as a company in order pass thosesavings on to their customers in the form of lower prices.
Walmart’s Ad-Match Guarantee
The same article chronicling this piece of Walmart history was written inhonor of Walmart once again not just making, but topping, the Forbes Fortune 500list. Sam Walton’s commitment to efficiency and cost cutting went far beyondsimple factors like signage, but to all aspects of his business. This commitmentto efficiency made his company one of the most profitable and successful retailgoliaths of all time.
Walmart occupies strange places in the minds of consumers, popping up in a variety of modern worldissues 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 ofcorporate greed and poor labor practices. For others, Walmart is a means tomaintain a comfortable lifestyle in a shrinking middle class, standing as aretailer that supports families by keeping prices as low as possible to maximizea family’s purchasing power. Walmart is a large, world-wide employer, and notonly provides employment, but is a huge player in the demand for manyagricultural products, electronics, and other goods. The retail giant’sinfluence is inescapable, and its influence on modern American life isundisputed in its myriad of effects. Walmart still serves as a major business model in learningcost-saving practices for any enterprise, and its practices are highly enviable by many other retail chains. What makes Walmartunsettling for its detractors may very well be their market dominance. Walmartis not a faceless corporation plagued with greed and ruthless businesspractices. Walmart is a true story of one man’s American Dream coming tofruition, that would lead to a multibillion dollar, multinational retailsuccess.