It goes without saying that Walmart is nothing short of a corporate giant. It’s the world’s largest company by revenue, the world’s largest private employer, and also the world’s largest grocery store. But whether you’re a regular shopper or a vocal critic, we bet that there are a lot of things you don’t know about this business behemoth.
Founder Sam Walton purchased his first store — a branch of a local chain called Ben Franklin — in 1945 in Newport, Arkansas, and was able to find lower-cost suppliers than the competition, so was therefore able to sell products at lower prices. Even though the profit margin was lower, within the first year, sales were up 45 percent. By 1958, the store was generating $225,000 in revenue, and by 1962 he’d opened an additional 15 stores in three states.
The first true Wal-Mart opened in 1962, and it initially stood out from the discount store pack for two reasons: It sold primarily American-made merchandise; and stores opened in small towns, instead of in major cities. Selling goods at lower prices than local mom-and-pop shops is still one of the chain’s major hallmarks.
Walton made sure to locate all of his stores within a day’s drive from the company’s regional warehouses, and the trucking service was company-owned as well.
Walton’s original Ben Franklin store was bought by the landlord in 1958, but two years later Walton opened a new store, which he called Walton’s Five and Dime, on the town square in Bentonville, Arkansas. Today the store remains largely intact, and serves as the Walmart Visitors Center.
Walton’s three surviving children, Jim, Rob, and Alice (a third son, John, was killed in a 2005 plane crash) are the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth wealthiest Americans, respectively. With a 2017 net worth of $38.2 billion according to Forbes, Alice Walton is the wealthiest woman in the world.
Bananas have been the top-selling item at Walmart for years. "Customers love bananas because they're an easy, healthy food to pack and eat and very affordable," company spokesman Brooke Buchanan told Business Insider. "Kids also love bananas, and so a lot of customers are probably thinking of their children." That's presumably why the company sells about 1 billion pounds of bananas annually around the world, which works out to about 32 pounds every second of the day.
The company also donated $20 million in cash and 1,500 truckloads of free merchandise, and promised a job to every one of its displaced workers in the New Orleans area.
They’re also the biggest buyer of organic cotton in the world.
Founder Sam Walton famously refused to donate money to philanthropic causes, but his children have loosened up on that a bit. Today, the company’s charitable donations approach $1 billion annually.
Walmart sources $4 billion worth of food from 1.2 to 1.4 million small and medium-sized farmers, and funds several farmer training programs.
The average U.S. family spends more than $4,000 per year at Walmart.
A 2008 study found that “an additional Supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average BMI by 0.24 units and the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points.”
The company’s curbside grocery pickup program allows customers to order groceries through the app or website and have their items brought right to their car. The company doesn't charge extra for the service.
Launched in 2011, Walmart Express locations were much smaller than the massive Supercenters, and carried general merchandise like toilet paper, toys, and a small food selection. Many shoppers felt that the merchandise selection wasn’t quite right (it stocked multiple brands of the same items, for example), and that combined with the fact that they were usually located within 10 miles of a Supercenter spelled doom for Walmart Express. All 102 locations were shut down in 2016.
Walmart has been making some strategic purchases in recent years, primarily in order to keep it competitive in the digital space. It purchased Vudu (an online movie service) in 2010, e-commerce company Jet.com (an Amazon competitor) in 2014, and Bonobos (a menswear company) in 2017.
Cost-cutting tactics like the removal of store greeters and the replacement of cashiers with self-checkout have created some unintended consequences; according to a 2016 report by Bloomberg Businessweek, they’ve led to an increase in theft and violent crime. Petty crimes were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands; and more than 200 violent crimes, including murders and attempted kidnappings, occurred in or near Walmarts that year.
Taking inspiration from the cashierless Amazon Go, Walmart is reportedly toying with a new concept that will outfit stores with cameras and sensors that allow customers to just walk out of the store with goods and be automatically billed for it later, according to Recode. They’re also trying out a new initiative called Code Eight, which allows “high net worth urban customers” to receive product recommendations and shop through text messaging.