Founded by Sam Walton in 1962, Walmart rose to become a national giant in the late 80s and early 90s. It all began when Walton, then a J.C. Penney employee, purchased a branch of Ben Franklin stores and focused on selling low-priced products with the aim of achieving higher-volume sales at lower-profit margin. All the while, the endeavor was branded as a crusade for the consumer, and today Walmart has over 11,000 stores in 27 countries and is listed under 55 different names. These include “Asda” in the United Kingdom, “Seiyu” in Japan, and “Best Price” in India.
Not everything has been easy for Walmart though, as its critics have found fault in the company on many aspects, including its low salaries for average employees and how it has allegedly killed many small-town stores and local manufacturers, among others. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to deny what a business giant Walmart has become and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Here are ten mind-blowing facts about Walmart that you probably don’t know:
10. In 2013, Walmart Recorded an Average of More Than $1.29 Billion in Sales Each Day
Yes, $473 billion in 2013, which when averaged, would amount to a staggering $1.29 billion spent in Walmart stores worldwide each day. That figure means that the average American family of four, even taking into consideration those families that don’t shop at Walmart, spend $4,000 each year at the retail giant. In fact, one of every four dollars Americans allot for their groceries is spent at Walmart. That makes the company bigger than even Home Depot, Target, Kroger, Sears, K-Mart, and Costco combined.
The sales figures Walmart is able to rack up are even more shocking when considered in terms of worldwide economic figures. If Walmart were a country, the $473 billion it grossed in 2013 would have made it the 27th largest economy in the world ahead of Austria ($415 billion) and behind Argentina ($488 billion).
9. Walmart Has Been the Most Searched Destination on TeleNav GPS Systems
Data from GPS systems, which enable mobile users to navigate their way around the world, provide interesting information. For one, such data can provide a snapshot of what places people seek to go to most often. One of the companies that provide GPS information is TeleNav, Inc., one of the largest global location-based service providers.
In 2009 and 2010, TeleNav reported that Walmart was the most searched business using their systems. In fact, Walmart was so overwhelmingly searched on TeleNav systems, that its number of searches more than doubled those of second-place Target. What other businesses did Walmart beat out? Starbucks, Best Buy, and Chase.
8. Bananas Are the Best-selling Items at Walmart
Made to guess what items are the most bought in the world’s largest department store, most people would probably guess “toilet paper”, “bread”, or “soap”. However, for several years running now, the best-selling item at Walmart is a food item that wouldn’t come to most people’s minds as the top-selling product: bananas. In fact, the number of bananas sold at Walmart stores worldwide are more than the number of apples and oranges sold combined.
Brooke Buchanan, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Walmart, shared, “Customers love bananas because they’re an easy, healthy food to pack and eat and very affordable. Kids also love bananas, and so a lot of customers are probably thinking of their children.”
7. The Amount of Space That Walmart Stores Take up Is More Than Half of the Total Area of the District of Columbia
In 2011, Fortune Magazine reported that Walmart took up 952,203,837 square feet of land space, roughly 34.16 square miles. The company has since opened up many more shops, but even back then, the space that Walmart stores occupied would have been enough to fill up almost half of the District of Columbia, which takes up 68.34 square miles of total space. Shockingly, the measurement of 34.16 square miles doesn’t even include Walmart’s distribution facilities, office space, and parking lots. Furthermore, “Fortune” reported in 2011 that Walmart’s nearly 8,000 drivers logged 749 million miles in that year alone — enough to circle the Earth thirty thousand times.
6. Walmart Is by Far The World’s Largest Private Employer
In 2012, the BBC reported that Walmart employed 2.1 million people, which worldwide is behind only the United States Department of Defense (3.2 million) and the People’s Liberation Army of China (2.3 million). However, in terms of private employment, Walmart is considerably ahead of its closest competitor, the China National Petroleum Corporation with 1.6 million in 2012. The monstrosity of Walmart’s employment numbers is even more impressive when compared with the numbers of other American companies. In 2012, USA Today reported that Walmart employed 2.2 million employees worldwide. Second to it was Yum! Brands — owner of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut — with “only” 523,000 employees, less than a quarter of Walmart’s numbers. However, of the 2.2 million employed by Walmart, only a little over 1.3 million are employed in the United States as Walmart’s global workforce is the largest in America.
5. Walmart CEO Michael Duke Makes More in a Day Than the Average Walmart Employee Makes in a Year
In 2010, Ed Smith, an alderman in Chicago, presented data about Walmart at a city council meeting. He was trying to prove that it wasn’t in the best interests of Chicago to approve a new Walmart store being built in their territory, and one of the ways he illustrated his case was by pointing out that Walmart paid their ordinary employees extremely low wages despite the company’s top executives receiving obscene salaries. To concretize his argument, Smith presented data that CEO Michael Duke was being paid $35 million annually, while new employees were paid $8.75 an hour, amounting to $13,650 a year. If that were true, then what Duke earned in an hour was more than what an ordinary Walmart worker earned in a year. However, Equilar, an executive compensation research firm, pointed out that Smith’s numbers were a bit off. Their data showed that Duke earned a little under $20 million in 2009 and $28 million in 2008. But even based on those numbers, Duke was earning more in a day than an ordinary Walmart worker earned in a year.
4. Walmart Critics Were Not “Happy” That Pharrell Williams Performed at the 2014 Walmart Shareholders Meeting
As can be inferred from the previous item, there is quite a significant amount of public discontent with how Walmart compensates its workers. In fact, it has recently been revealed that many of Walmart’s employees have been forced to rely on food stamps to supplement their income. As a result, anyone who shows support for the company is often perceived to condone Walmart’s employment practices, and is correspondingly attacked by those who oppose the company.
One of those who were recently criticized for allegedly sympathizing with Walmart is Pharrell Williams, who spent ten weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with “Happy”. The attacks came about after Williams performed the Oscar-nominated “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack during Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting. Near the end of his performance in front of 14,000 Walmart shareholders and workers, Pharrell invited the attendees, “Put your hands together for Walmart, guys, for making the world a happier place!”
The performance triggered hundreds of tweets critical of Williams. Here’s one example:
3. In 2000, Walmart Was Sued 4,851 Times, Which Is An Average of More Than 13 Lawsuits Each Day
Unfortunately for Walmart, its lawsuit figures are as awesome as its sales numbers. In fact, Walmart was the most sued private entity in 2000 with 4,851 lawsuits filed against it. Overall, that placed Walmart behind only the United States government, which was sued over 7,500 times in 2000. Furthermore, in that year, juries decided a Walmart case about six times each business day, with 9,400 cases overall still being litigated at the end of that year. And what was the litigants’ batting average in terms of favorable decisions? Not very good, actually. Instead of settling the cases quickly to lessen costs, Walmart aggressively defended the cases filed against them and saw both a greater number of cases being won and a lower number of cases being filed against them. The lower suing rate was probably due to lawyers’ knowledge of Walmart’s willingness to go through extended litigation.
2. Walmart Is “Making an Effort” to Bring Manufacturing Back to the US
In 1985, Walmart began the “Buy America” program supposedly to help create jobs in the United States. The initiative was conceptualized after Walmart’s outsourcing to China became one of the primary reasons that manufacturing in the United States subsided substantially. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute revealed that Walmart’s imports helped destroy 200,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs and also helped China become a world power. Thus, the “Buy America” program effectively painted Walmart as a patriotic company. However, in 1992, Dateline aired a program that insinuated that the “Buy America” program was more an advertising gimmick than a realistic plan, with imported clothing being deceptively displayed as domestic merchandise.
In 2013, Walmart once again launched a “Buy America” program, this time with a concrete commitment to purchase an additional $50 billion worth of domestic products over the next decade. The jury is still out on the second version of the initiative, but critics are already pointing out how the program is unlikely to result in actual U.S. production and jobs.
1. Walmart Is Among the Most Charitable Companies in the United States
For seven straight years from 2006 to 2012, Walmart was named the single largest giver in corporate America. However, in 2013, Walmart was replaced at #1 by Wells Fargo, which donated more than $300 million in 2012. Nevertheless, Walmart’s charitable contributions are still incredibly hefty with more than $311 million in cash and more than $755 million in products being donated. Despite these impressive philanthropic figures though, the Walton family has still been criticized for giving away about only 2 percent of its net worth to charity. That percentage is significantly far off from that of Bill Gates who has given away 48 percent of his net worth and Warren Buffet who has given away 78 percent.