I started to read a new book last night and am absolutely fascinated by it. The book is "The Wal-Mart Effect" by Charles Fishman, and it came out last month.
Fishman is a business journalist. His award-winning cover story on Wal-Mart generated the strongest reader response in the history of the magazine Fast Company and led to this book.
I am so staggered by the numbers--and by the potential of the Wal-Mart effect--that this is the first in a series of blogs on the subject. For the writers in the audience who are saying, "I don't give a damn about Wal-Mart," I promise I'll explain why you should before we're through. I'll probably do a blog on Wal-Mart every four or five days during the remainder of February.
To give you an example of how big and pervasive Wal-Mart is, just remember that they did not get into the grocery store market until 1990. At the end of that year, they had just nine supercenters, the large stores in which they can sell groceries alongside general merchandise. In fifteen years, they went from nine supercenters to 1,906 supercenters. Today, they are the number one food retailer in the nation with about 16% of America's grocery dollar. They now sell more food than Kroger and Safeway combined.
Wal-Mart has been the largest company in the world for years. Fishman says that, in 2006, Wal-Mart will be bumped "by ExxonMobil, whose sales will surge past Wal-Mart, but only because the world price of oil has risen 50 percent in the last year." However, when you look at both companies, ExxonMobil employs about 90,000 people around the world while Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people.
And then there's this: "Wal-Mart is as big as Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Costco, Sears and Kmart combined."
In 2004, Wal-Mart opened 244 new supercenters in the United States--four new stores a week. In 2005, even though ninety percent of Americans live within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart, they picked up the pace. In ten months, they opened 232 new supercenters--five new stores a week.
Each year, 93% of American households shop at least once at Wal-Mart. "Every seven days more than one hundred million Americans shop at Wal-Mart--one third of the country."
The statistic that blew me away was this: "Worldwide, so many people shop at Wal-Mart that this year 7.2 billion people will go to a Wal-Mart store. Earth's population is only 6.5 billion, so this year the equivalent of every person on the planet will visit a Wal-Mart, with more than half a billion visits left over."
So, how do they do it? Stay tuned . . .