Walmart Inc. is one of the largest retail corporations on the entire planet. Based in Bentonville, Arkansas, this multinational corporate giant operates a large chain of discount department stores that are based around offering the best price to their customers for a variety of goods. Walmart stores sell everything from groceries to musical instruments. This business (founded by Sam Walton in 1962) has grown to have a significant presence worldwide. They own approximately 11,700 stores and operate under 59 different names in 28 different countries. For example, Walmart operates as Best Price in India, Asda in the United Kingdom, and Seiyu Group in Japan.
Walmart was run by founder Sam Walton until his death in 1992. Ownership then passed on to his heirs, who hold 51% of the company – making Walmart Inc. a publicly-traded family-owned company. Incidentally, the Waltons are also the richest family in the world, with billions and billions of dollars in combined net worth. This enormous firm holds a significant amount of influence over the world we live in today. Thus, it is important to have a good understanding of how they operate (alongside the operations of similar megacorporations). If you need to learn some more about this firm, read on to learn 20 fun facts about Walmart.
Walmart Is the World’s Largest Company
Walmart’s widespread global presence comes with some of the biggest overall profits of any retailer today. They make close to half of a trillion dollars a year, meaning that they have a significant amount of purchasing power and influence. In addition, Walmart is also has the largest privately-employed workforce in the world with about 2.3 million employees. By extension, the firm is also the world’s biggest family-owned business. The firm’s success is so solid that their next nearest competitor as far as profits go makes around $100 billion less per year than Walmart. However, the most impressive part of the firm’s undeniably strong grip on the global market is that the company hasn’t even hit its sixtieth year of operation yet. Such a feat is not to be taken lightly – and is a testament to the marketing genius of Sam Walton.
They Have a Huge Share of the American Grocery Market
When you think of a grocery store, chances are you think of places like Safeway, Albertson’s, or perhaps Super One. However, Walmart also holds a significant amount of the grocery market. In fact, they provided approximately 14.5% of all of the food purchased in America in 2016. This figure is more than twice that of their nearest competitor (Kroger, who had about 7.2% of the sales). The firm even owns their own in-house brand, Great Value, that is one of the highest-rated store brands in the entire nation. Walmart still holds the top position as far as selling groceries to Americans goes. However, they may soon be displaced by same-day grocery delivery due to the recent Amazon-Whole Foods deal. This means that they should focus on building up the infrastructure to compete with Amazon – who has already taken a lot of their business from both their online and brick-and-mortar stores.
They Were Not Successful in Germany
Walmart’s status as an international retailer came about as early as the 1990s. They have generally found success when opening up more stores outside of the United States. For example, their operations in China, the United Kingdom, and across South America have proved to be some of the more profitable international expansions of any retail chain (not just Walmart). However, this huge firm does sometimes fail. For example, they closed down all of their stores in Germany when the chain failed to take off in this country (which also happens to have the biggest economy in all of Europe). Their failure can mostly be attributed to trying to impress American cultural values on Germans. Their customers found greeters at the door and the smiley, cheery demeanor of their employees off-putting. Eventually, the American firm’s refusal to accede to German values cost them around a billion dollars and a hold on the German market.
Founder Sam Walton’s First Store Was a Franchise
Before Sam Walton opened Walmart, he acquired a branch of a Ben Franklin convenience store. This was a pretty good method of testing the waters before trying anything serious. Walton quickly began exercising his entrepreneurial spirit with the store, introducing many new ideas that helped his store become profitable quickly. Some small conveniences were an ice cream machine and constantly-stocked shelves. Walton’s biggest success with this Ben Franklin store was finding suppliers who could provide the same (or similar) products for less than what he was paying. He then passed these savings off to the customer – inventing a new method of doing business in which the firm makes their profits on quantity of sales rather than profit margins. It was incredibly successful as well, bringing the store’s annual income up by over 125,000 per year.
The Modern-Day Walmart Museum Used to Be Walton’s Store
The Walmart Museum is currently located in Bentonville, Arizona, and has a variety of exhibits on display about the history of the firm. One thing that visitors see is that the museum is in the same location as the Walton 5 & 10 – another Ben Franklin franchise opened up by Sam Walton in 1950. This was also the first business that ever held the Walton name. Sam Walton and his family moved to Bentonville in 1950 due to never reaching a lease agreement with his former landlord for his first popular and successful franchise. He opened the Walton’s 5 & !0 in the town square. You can even see a reflection of his early frugality in the ceiling tiles. They came in red and green but were not uniform in color. The savings Walton had on these tiles enabled him to pass it on to his customers – just one example of Walton’s particular method of doing business.
Their Early Days Were Marked by Rapid Expansion
The first store to bear the name Walmart was the Walmart Discount City opened by Sam Walton in 1962. It was twice as large as his previous store (the Walton 5 & 10) and made nearly a million dollars in its first year. This helped Walton expand his business as quickly as possible, opening up about 18 stores in just five years. This rate of expansion was incredible – but it only increased from there. By 1970, just eight years after the first Walmart opened, they had 38 locations and were opening approximately two stores per year. However, Walton found himself in some debt due to the rapid expansion. So, he finally elected to let the company go public in order to attain some extra funds for paying down his debts as well as investing in the business.
They Once Operated the Largest Private Satellite Network
In 1987, Walmart successfully completed their $24 million-dollar private satellite network. It was meant to provide a connection between every single store that the company owned with their own headquarters in Bentonville. This made it the largest private satellite network ever created when it was launched. In these days before the Internet, corporate still needed a way to track their sales and inventory. This is why the satellite network – which boasted two-way voice and data transmission – was so successful. In addition, they were able to send more-personalized messages to their stores with the one-way video communication that this network also offered.
They Weren’t in All Fifty States until 1995
You might be surprised to learn that the retail supergiant was not in every state until 1995. In fact, prior to 1990 they weren’t even in the Northeast (excepting a single Sam’s Club) or anywhere on the West Coast. By the end of 1990, Walmart finally opened some locations in California and Pennsylvania, respectively. They did not make it to all fifty states until the final location was founded in Vermont in 1995. Interestingly enough, the firm elected to make an international expansion before going to all fifty states. Four years before Vermont’s location was added to their roster, Walmart had already expanded into Mexico. In 1994, they also made it out to Canada. This led to the founding of their own international sales division before they even made it to every state.
Walmarts Can Crush Local Retail
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to this huge retailer is that they will completely overtake smaller businesses. This is especially true when it comes to tiny local businesses often referred to as ‘mom and pop’ stores. Critics of Walmart cite its huge size and ability to undercut most local retailers on price as the methods through which smaller stores can be destroyed. A 1997 study by Kenneth Stone, a professor of economics at Iowa State University, found that small towns lose approximately half of their retail trade when a new Walmart opens. Other studies backed up Stone’s original one, finding that sales in other stores decrease almost instantly after a Walmart is introduced to a location that previously did not have one. However, other people found that small retailers can survive the introduction of Walmart if they adapt to the changing market. This means that they need to provide something that Walmart cannot – such as niche products or personalized service – in order to stay in business.
They Provided Relief for Hurricane Katrina Victims
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the South, killing many people and destroying a lot of property and infrastructure. One of the towns most greatly affected by this force of nature was New Orleans. Luckily, Walmart stepped in at the behest of their generous former CEO H. Lee Scott – who called for a response from Walmart that reflected the chain’s “size and impact”. The firm eventually donated around $20 million to relief efforts as well as 100,000 meals worth of food, 1500 trucks of merchandise, and even promised any of their workers who had been displaced a job as soon as things were up and running again. The most fascinating aspect of Walmart’s response to the storm is that they responded before the Federal Emergency Management Agency even started to provide relief. This was due to their intimate knowledge of local infrastructure and supply chains – which allowed them to deliver relief quickly and efficiently.
They Are Committed to “Green” Operations
In 2005, Walmart unveiled a plan for how they were going to reduce their environmental impact. This announced their intention to cut down on waste production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and boost their energy efficiency. According to former CEO Scott, they needed to take care of the environment because it affects everyone – including them and their customers. In order to achieve environmental friendliness, the store put a significant amount of cash in developing new ways to stay green. For example, they introduced innovations that would increase the fuel mileage in their trucks and would also reduce the emissions produced by said trucks. Another crazy innovation was the use of used oil (both motor oil and cooking oil) to heat an entire store. This aggressive pursuit of their environmental goals definitely fits the modus operandi of this retail giant.
They Created Their Own Electricity Company
This firm is always trying to find ways to reduce their own bills so they can pass the savings on to their customers. One of their boldest decisions was to help found and eventually acquire an energy company called Texas Retail Energy. Their main intent was to purchase electricity for their stores at wholesale prices, saving them around $15 million per year. It is also important to note that upon their complete acquisition of the firm, Walmart gained the ability to provide consumers with electricity. In a deregulated environment, this could spell disaster for other firms as Walmart is known to cut costs on pretty much everything they do. This could lead to Walmart’s power being a lot cheaper than others, cutting these other firms out of the game.
They Opened an Upscale Location
Usually, Walmart is known as a “bare-bones” department store. They generally only provide their products at excellent prices and may also feature a few alcove shops. Usually these consist of banks, fast food, and salons (among other types of businesses). Walmart pushed their own boundaries, however, when they opened an upscale Supercenter in Plano, Texas. This new take on Walmart included a lot of expensive goods – such as wine, fine jewelry, and a lot of high-end electronics. In addition, the firm appealed to their high-end clientele with the espresso bar and sushi bar on the premises. Plus, they boasted free, fast Wi-Fi. A lot of the features of the Plano Supercenter have never been seen before in other Walmarts.
They Treat Their Employees Well
Working for Walmart is by no means a breeze. However, the firm does want their employees to stay happy (and thus keep making them a profit). This leads Walmart to provide the people they employ with a lot of incentives to stay on. For example, they gave out nearly $1 billion in cash bonuses in 2009. Walmart doesn’t only give out cash, however. They also have profit-sharing, discounts on merchandise, and even employer-matched 401(k) contributions. These three other methods of sharing the wealth, combined with the cash bonuses, leads the company to spend approximately $2 billion on worker incentives alone.
They Have a Hand in the Video Streaming Market
The first time the firm attempted to enter the streaming market was with their Walmart Video Downloads service. This failed just a few months after its conception, mostly attributable to the timing of the program’s release. However, they eventually purchased Vudu in 2010 – re-entering the lucrative streaming market. Vudu is unique because it offers same-day, exclusive access to movie releases and other high-profile visual entertainment. They also use a pay-per-view model rather than a subscription model (which is perfect for those who don’t stream often or daily). In addition, Vudu offers thousands of free films – setting it apart from competitors such as Netflix and Hulu.
They Promote Healthy Eating
As mentioned earlier in this article, Walmart has their own store brand that is called Great Value. In 2011, the firm began working closely with Michelle Obama in order to introduce their new healthy eating initiative. They began doing so by pledging to reduce sugar, unhealthy fats, and sodium content in their prepackaged foods. In addition, they promised to cut prices on vegetables and fruits. Another method that the firm used in order to promote healthy eating was lowering the prices on whole grain food. They also pushed their own suppliers to adopt more healthy ingredients and practices when it comes to food. They even designed their own seal that was intended to go on foods that were “truly healthy”.
They Had a Mail-Order Snack Delivery Service
Walmart Labs is an innovation-centric Silicon Valley-based wing of the multinational firm. They introduce most of the technological initiatives that the firm supports. One of them was the creation of Goodies.co, a monthly subscription site that offered around eight snack samples for only $7 per month. Though there were similar services already out there, Walmart severely undercut them on price. Goodies.co was an ingenious way of conducting market research while having the customers pay for it. They could advertise new products and let consumers try them. However, this section of Walmart ended up closing down in 2013. They ended up applying what they learned to a lot of other parts of doing business. For example, they added a few popular products to Walmart.com.
There Has Been a Crime Wave in Recent Years
Some of the locations of this retail chain have been plagued with crime. This began to occur in 2000, when former CEO Scott sought to reduce costs by replacing cashiers with self-checkouts, cutting back on hiring new employees, and even removing the famous greeters from Walmart’s doors. This led to an increase in theft. However, it also led to an increase in assaults and shootings on the premises. The crime problem got so bad that Scott’s successor Doug McMillon introduced a brand-new system for preventing crime. This included using eye-level security cameras at the self-checkouts, data analytics meant to prevent credit card fraud, and spot-checking their receipts. However, those who do get caught can avoid being cited on their first offense, and instead take a theft prevention course.
They Used to Operate a Closeouts Chain
You may have heard of Bud’s Discount City, a store by Walmart. Similar to Big Lots, Bud’s Discount City sold a variety of damaged, flawed, discontinued, or overstocked merchandise at some of the most fair and reasonable prices available for such goods. These closeout stores were mostly used to fill slots on leases as Walmarts left their original locations to go and become supercenters. The first Bud’s Discount City was founded in 1990. They had a pretty good run up until 1997, when the parent firm began running into financial trouble. They ended up simply closing down or converting most of their Bud’s Discount City locations. By the end of 1997, every single Bud’s Discount City was closed or had been converted to a regular Walmart discount store.
Sam Walton Did Not Believe in Charity
Despite the incredible amount of success that Walton met very early in his venture into business, he never believed in donating any money to charitable or philanthropic causes. He was of the opinion that the store’s existence was more than enough, as it already passed on savings to (and thus improved the lives of) their customers. He also believed that any charitable giving would take money out of the pockets of their customers – or even their shareholders. However, after Walton’s death in 1992, the firm began to donate a significant amount of money to various causes. After their first big donation of $20 million to Katrina relief, they have steadily increased their giving every year. Today, the chain gives away about $1 billion in cash to charities all around the world.