Walmart's How Big? What the Huge Numbers Really Mean When it comes to companies, it can be hard to get a feel for their size. They may say they're "big," but what does that actually mean? Consider Walmart (WMT), for example. This year, for the seventh time in the past decade, Fortune magazine awarded the retailer the No. 1 slot on its annual list of the 500 largest American companies, as measured by revenues (a.k.a. gross income or sales).

But how big is Walmart really? The numbers provided by Fortune are so insanely large that they're hard to wrap your head around in the abstract. So I did a little digging and came up with some pretty stunning comparisons.

According to Fortune, Walmart sold $421,849,000,000 worth of stuff last year. The largest purchase most of us will ever make is our house: If all Walmart sold were new homes, which averaged $268,900 in April, that would be almost 1.59 million homes.

That's also just about the same amount of money that the United States spent in 2009 for the entire year's worth of Medicare, the government program that provides health insurance to senior citizens and younger Americans who are permanently disabled. That $421.8 billion is also about $9 billion less than Taiwan's 2010 gross domestic product -- the total value of the country's goods and services in a single year -- and $7 billion more than Norway's 2010 GDP. In other words, if Walmart were a country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.
Speaking of countries, let's talk population: Fortune reports that 2.1 million people work at Walmart, which means there are about as many Walmart employees sprinkled across the globe as there are people living in the African country of Namibia (yes, that Namibia, where Angelina Jolie gave birth). There are another 95 countries with populations smaller than the retailer's sprawling workforce, including Botswana, Kosovo, The Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahrain, Cyprus, Qatar, Luxembourg, Belize, Iceland, The Bahamas and Greenland.

And how much land would Walmart the country hold? The company has 952,203,837 square feet of retail space, or roughly 34.16 square miles. That's just about 1.5 times the size of the borough of Manhattan. And that's just the stores: We're not even including their offices or distribution facilities ... or their gigantic parking lots.

Discussing parking lots, naturally, brings us to driving. According to Fortune, the company's nearly 8,000 drivers logged 749 million miles in 2010, the equivalent of circling the Earth not once, not twice, not a thousand times, but thirty thousand times. No wonder Fortune once called the retailer "Planet Walmart." It does feel like they are creating a branded, discount world in which we are all headed for citizenship, whether we like it or not.

Loren Berlin is a columnist at She can be reached at (at) You can follow her on Twitter @LorenBerlin, or on Facebook.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Basics Of The Stock Market

Stock Market 101 - everything you need to know but were afraid to ask!

View Course »

Investing in Real Estate

Learn the basics of investing in real estate.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I haven't been in Walmart in many months, I go to Price Chopper. But yesterday, my daughter and I went to Walmat in our area. The coffee was much higher there. I use to buy raisin bread at $1.75 , now it cost $3.36 in Walmart ! Milk is cheaper at Price Chopper, so really I didn't save a dime at Walmart. I do not buy anything made in China. I will stay with Price Chopper or Aldi's.

June 04 2011 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mickey markoff

Walmart Planet? Sounds about right. They are the Microsoft of retailers, that's for sure; no room for competition these days.

June 01 2011 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hate the fact that they have driven out the little guys. And yes, Walmart ends jobs for millions of Americans. Even in Arkansas I can think of several factories that have closed due to making the supplier drop their prices and telling them where to get outsourcing (Virco is just one). Walmart is a giant and a killer, don't forget Sam's is part of Walmart too.
Walmart is becoming a retail monopoly. I will shop anywhere but there.

June 01 2011 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom French

Walmart is big and therefore it is the easy target. As for Walmart sending jobs overseas that is incorrect. I work in a warehouse that sells automotive parts, Walmart does not sell any of these types of parts, and nearly all of them come from China. An industry in the town where I live is closing and sending the jobs out of the country, and Walmart does not have anything to do with what they produce. Jobs have left this nation because of a variety of factors with the cost of making the products they produce the largest reason. We all love clean air to breathe but the restricitons put on industry have become horrendously expensive and helps to drive out jobs.
Bottom line is that Walmart is so big because Sam Walton started his store after having worked at a big department store with too much overhead as he stated. He said that you did not have to have that much overhead, the rest is history. I agree with the commenter that if Walmart was so awful why do they have so many longterm employees? Keep in mind the company is not the same as when Sam was alive but no company is the same after several years in business. Times change and so do companies, fact of life. We all blame companies for our problems but the reality is that we are to blame for allowing it to happen.

June 01 2011 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Since almost everything they retail that is not a fresh food item is made to Walmart specifications in China you can bet that most of that 421 billion dollars spent at Walmart will never be returned to our economy and help keep American's employed.
People shop there for the low prices but the low prices come with a huge cost. For every item whose manufacturing was transferred to China from the USA because Walmart demands it to keep prices low, (the price they pay, not what you pay) another American factory and manufacturing job will go away here and be replaced by one in China.
This creates more unemployed people who will be forced to shop at Walmart because they cannot afford to buy anywhere else. This cycle will of course come to an end when the unemployment rate gets so high that government assistance to the poor and unemployed programs run out of money and there are not enough working class people left in this country to pay the taxes. Walmart style business practices and continued tax breaks to the rich will eventually kill off the middle class who actually pay the bills and leave his country bankrupt with no one left to buy their cheap products because low prices will still be too high for people with no money to spend.

May 31 2011 at 10:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ecommcom7's comment

This assessment of Walmart's affect on our economy is dead on ..couldn't have said it better myself...

June 01 2011 at 2:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply




May 31 2011 at 8:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

So what are the statistics for what we pay to their underpaid, parttime employees in WIC benefits, Section 8, Medicaid, etc.? What could we do with that money if Wal-Mart paid a living wage, scheduled workers to 40 hours, and made benefits available? Also, I understand Wal-Mart is a vulture when dealing with developing countries,demanding reductions in wages with every passing year for the illegal employees providing toys for our kids while they have nothing. Of course, we try to make up for this shabby treatment with USA aid programs. We should not support this corporation-individually or nationally.

May 31 2011 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Says "Always lowest price" so, I did all my grocery shopping there. At the end of the month, my Card statement was
$100.00 more than the month before. Yeah, some items are cheap, but most of it is high like $3.69 for 40 load liquid laundry detergent verse $1.69 elsewhere. Chips, anything with sugar in it, sky high. Wanna know how they made
$421 billion ? Check your wallet....Al-

May 31 2011 at 5:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

(I see you corrected Angelina Jolie's name, which was misspelled when I read this piece--not that I know or care who that is or why it would be relevant).
You make no reference to how many of the thousands of business districts, in small towns and cities across America, have now been replaced by these big, bland boxes. As most people know, America's "Main Streets" were once thriving as retail centers, each one supplying the needs of thousands of families. Most importantly, these are the "real" places we identify with, the places a large percentage of American families think of as their long-time "homes," but after 25-60 years of giving most of our business to Walmart and other big box stores, most of our home towns are fading into obscurity. (Congratulations to all who supported this step forward in "progress"!)
You also didn't measure the loss of long-time jobs in real places, jobs that were replaced by lesser quality jobs in Walmart stores. Or how the older jobs were in walk-able locations, where gas prices didn't matter much, often surrounded by great architecture that took generations to evolve and be perfected, in many cases now lying vacant. A lot of towns have pulled through and reorganized themselves to find a new economic purpose, but those small town business districts that are still dying on the vine are places where everyone loses, where neighboring residential properties lose value because downtown property is languishing.
Who cares how many times as large as Manhattan Walmart is? It didn't do anything to replace Manhattan. It replaced thousands of smaller places that once added up to more.
Also, your article doesn't reflect the reality that now that Walmart has done its thing in so many places, the style or retailing it created looks awfully dated. It's only a matter of time before our culture will have to find the resources to replace this dumb way of retailing with something else, since nothing it has built was really meant to last or to advance our civilization in the long run.

May 31 2011 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Did Walmart steal from anyone or enslave anyone to get as large as it is? Was anyone forced to shop at Walmart? Has anyone seen any Walmart employee wearing a ball and chain? Walmart is as large as it is because it has pleased more people than anyone else. As usual, private enterprize beats the federal government at anything it is allowed to do.

May 31 2011 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lladnit's comment
Muslim Tea Party

Wal-Mart got gigantic by relying on external costs.

Without the massive interstate highway system, there is no way Wal-Mart ever gets that big. Without relying on illegal immigrants and non-unionized labor in Southern states, there is no way Wal-Mart would have ever acheived the growth that they did. They would have failed right off the bat if they started in established American Cities (i.e. Boston, NY, Philly, Baltimore, DC, etc.). But now, Wal-Mart wants nothing more than to break into these markets. In places like NYC, they will be more than happy to operate at a loss just to have market share. Their impact on individual businesses and entrepeneurship will be devestating.

And now, even with record profits, most Wal-Mart employees are somewhere under $10/hr with no benefits. These employees contribute nothing to the federal tax base, yet since their wages are below livable, they federal government subsidizes Wal-Marts profits by providing medicare/medicaid, income assistance, tax credits, housing subsidies etc.

Your tone seems to indicate that you look at the working poor as a bunch of lazy leaches on the government. What kind of impact do you think Wal-Mart has on Americans? They stifle creativity and individual business choice

June 01 2011 at 10:17 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply