Wal-Mart by the Numbers: How Big Is This Big Box Store?

December, 17 2012 Share


The year 2012 marks Wal-Mart’s 50th anniversary.  And this year, more than 112 workers—many of whom were sewing Wal-Mart’s “Faded Glory” clothing—needlessly died in a factory fire at the Tazreen Fashion garment factory in Bangladesh due to the factory’s violation of the most basic fire safety regulations. 

Following a similar tragedy at a Hameem Group factory in 2010, a group of retailers, members of the Bangladeshi government and NGO’s met in Dhaka to discuss a proposed plan to fund structural improvements and reforms to improve fire safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories—now the world’s second largest source of garments. One attendee described how, on the second day of the 3-day meeting, the “air was sucked out of the room” when the largest retailer—Wal-Mart—stated that the proposal was not “financially feasible.”  The meeting collapsed and the plan went nowhere.     

Yesterday (December 18, 2012) the Institute released a report on another firetrap sweatshop factory.  At the Dream International Toy Factory in Shenzhen, China, which manufactures stuffed plush toys for Wal-Mart and other companies, blocked exits, inaccessible fire extinguishers and over-crowded workshops piled with cotton, fabric and wool make this huge facility another tragedy waiting to happen.  

If not the deadly fire at the Tazreen Fashion, what will be Wal-Mart’s wake-up call?  How many more deaths would be enough to make investment in fire safety “financially feasible”?  

By way of context, take a look at some of Wal-Mart’s “numbers.”      



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  • Wal-Mart has 10,130 retail stores in 27 countries around the world.  (Walmart Corporate. "Our Story." Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • Wal-Mart expects that its sales of fiscal year 2012 will be approximately $444 billion.  (Walmart Corporate. "Our Story." Web. 25 June 2012.)  Comparing Wal-Mart's sales to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the world's nations, Wal-Mart is the 28th largest economy in the world.  (International Monetary Fund. "World Economic Outlook." April 2012. Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • Wal-Mart is the world's biggest private employer and the third largest employer in the world, after the United States Department of Defense and the People's Liberation Army of China.  (Alexander, Ruth. "Which is the world's biggest employer?" BBC News. 19 March 2012. Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and its sales are more than the second to fourth retailers (Carrefour, Tesco, The Kroger and Metro AG) combined.  (Deloitte. "Switching Channels: Global Powers of Retailing 2012."  Sales of Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Tesco, The Kroger and Metro AG come from each company's website.)

  • According to Forbes, Wal-Mart is the world's second biggest public company.  (Forbes. "The World's Biggest Public Companies." 18 April 2012. Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • Wal-Mart had 1.037 billion square feet of retail space as of the fiscal year 2012 (or about 37.2 square miles.)   The total area of Manhattan is around 33.77 square miles.  (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. "2012 Annual Report.")

  • Wal-Mart employs 2.2 million associates.  The population of Houston, Texas is 2.1 million.

  • The numbers regarding charity donations came from the estimated lifetime giving and net worth of donors compiled by the Bloomberg Businessweek in 2008.  The net worth of the Walton family, the family of Wal-Mart's founder, was $93.1 billion and the estimated lifetime giving of the family was $2015 million, which accounted for 2.16% of the family's net worth.  According to this report, the most generous philanthropist was Warren Buffett.  Buffett had a net worth of $50 billion and his estimated lifetime giving was $40.79 billion.  (Bloomberg Businessweek. "The 50 Top American Philanthropists." 2008. Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • The Walton family is the richest family in the world, worth $93 billion in 2011 and $102.7 billion in 2012.  (The Richest People. "The Richest Family in the World 2011 - Worth $93 billion." 22 September 2011. Web. 25 June 2012.  Forbes. "The Word's Billionaires." Web. 25 June 2012.)

  • Wal-Mart's CEO Michael Duke's total compensation in 2011 was $18,712,721.  (Forbes. "Michael Duke." Web. 25 June 2012.)  The average wage for a part-time Wal-Mart worker is as low as $8.75 an hour.  We took a high-end number of $11.75 an hour for a conservative comparison and assumed there are 220 work days a year for both the associate and Mr. Duke.  Mr. Duke makes more than the combined annual salary of more than 900 Wal-Mart sales associates.

  • According to a U.C. Berkeley study of 2011, Wal-Mart workers earn an estimated 12.4% less than other retail workers.  (Jacobs, Ken et al. "Living Wage Policies and Big-Bog Retail: How a Higher Wage Standard Would Impact Walmart Workers and Shoppers." University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education. April 2011.)

  • We picked China and Bangladesh for wage comparisons because of their trade volume with the U.S.  China is the largest importer to the U.S. and Wal-Mart is the largest U.S. importer of Chinese goods.  As the second largest apparel exporter in the world, Bangladesh exported almost $18 billion worth of garments in 2011, 75 percent of which go to the U.S. and Europe.  In mid-2012, workers in Shenzhen, Guangdong province of China made a minimum wage of 1500 RMB a month, or $1.35 USD an hour, based on working 8 hours a day and 21.75 work days a month.  A gallon of milk costs $4.32 in Shenzhen.  A manufacturing worker in Shenzhen would have to work 3 hours 12 minutes to afford a gallon of milk.  In 2012, Bangladeshi garment workers made a minimum wage of 3000 Taka a month, or $0.18 USD an hour. (8 hours a day and 26 days a month.)  A liter of milk costs 60 Taka and a gallon of milk cost USD $2.79 in Bangladesh.  A garment worker in Bangladesh would have to work15 hours and 30 minutes to afford a gallon of milk.  How long does the CEO of Wal-Mart have to work to buy a gallon of milk?  One second.