70 million people shop at Wal-Mart each week. On one fall day in 2002, the sales total of Wal-Mart exceeded the GNPs of 36 countries. Wal-Mart grossed $244.5 billion in sales for 2003.
The world's first Wal-Mart opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. A quarter-century later, the first Supercenter opened in Missouri. These full retail and grocery stores are often in excess of 100,000 square feet.
The Goliath of retail, Wal-Mart is 3.5 times larger than its largest competitor. And if it sustains its current 15 percent growth over five years, the company will be twice as large as it is now.
Wal-Mart entered the international market in Mexico in November 1991. It now controls 50 percent of Mexico's grocery industry and is the world's largest grocer.
Wal-Mart employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide, a figure larger than the population of New Hampshire.
A typical employee's hourly wage is $8.00, with a standard 32-hour work week. The company's voluntary health coverage plan would suck up nearly three months of wages, at $2,844 a year; employees would still pay a deductible.
The average unionized Bay Area grocery employee's wage and benefit package comes to $42,552 annually. The arrival of supercenters could halve that average.
More than two thirds of Wal-Mart's employees are women. Less than 10 percent hold management positions, average for a company in 1975. A class action sex- discrimination suit is pending.
Half of Wal-Mart's US employees qualify for food stamps. Wal-Mart employees compose the largest single group in the state of Washington's low-income health program.
Vista, California, reported a 24 percent increase in crime after the arrival of a new Wal-Mart. Pineville, North Carolina rejected two big boxes, one a Wal-Mart Supercenter, after determining that the property tax generated would not cover the salaries of the two additional police officers needed to serve the stores.
The average supercenter attracts 3,315 car trips a day.
A 250,000-square-foot supercenter with a 16-acre parking lot will produce 413,000 gallons of storm runoff for every inch of rain. Each year, such a lot would dump 240 pounds of nitrogen, 32 pounds of phosphorus, and 5 pounds of zinc into local watersheds while creating heat islands.
Once Wal-Mart stifles its competition in a region, it consolidates its holdings by vacating many of its stores. To limit competitors in the future, the leases of these dark Wal-Marts prevent them from being used for retail. Other uses for these massive windowless structures are limited.
As of this February, Wal-Mart possesses 371 dead stores. Half of these buildings have been vacant for at least two years, and 21 percent have not been used for at least five years. Over that time, the number of dead Wal-Marts has risen 38 percent.
In 1999 California had only one dead Wal-Mart; now it has a dozen. Supercenters would increase that number. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart opens a new store every 42 hours.
This March, Contra Costa County voters rejected a ban on stores over 90,000 square feet that sell more than 10 percent of non-taxable items. Wal-Mart shelled out over $1 million to fight Measure L, capturing 56 percent of the vote.
On April 6, the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood voted down an initiative to let Wal-Mart build a 60-acre shopping center there without the environmental or traffic reviews or public hearings required for most major development projects. Despite a million-dollar campaign, the initiative lost, 7,049 to 4,575.
-- Stephanie Pope, Terrain magazine