Worldwide, the retail giant's stores cover as much land as Miami.

Earlier this week, I wondered if Best Buy's downsizing marked the beginning of the end of the sprawling megastore. My conclusion: not so fast. There were some commenters who disagreed, pointing to Walmart's move to urban centers as evidence of the end of the big box era.

I was still skeptical. And now, thanks to Mother Jones, we have a good sense of just how pervasive and influential Walmart is throughout the world. Below, a chart they put together:

 

To put that top statistic into perspective, the Best Buy store closing will bring the total number of stores in the U.S. to about 1,050, a fraction of Walmart's global store total.

I'm actually surprised that the combined area of Walmart stores is even close to the size of Manhattan, not nearly as big as I would have imagined. Though that number would soar if we looked at Walmart's entire land footprint and included parking lots.

Let's use the numbers above to compare Walmart's impact to U.S. cities. 

  • 35.3 square miles = about the land area of the city of Miami
  • 2.1 million workers worldwide = the population of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S.
  • 1.4 million U.S. associates = about the population of Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the U.S.

So while Walmart is looking to expand into the city - its pilot program has a handful of stores and proposed stores - it's not enough to signal a move away from the big box model. Even if big box stores eventually fizzle out of fashion, their fall will be long and slow. 

Top image: A rendering of a proposed Walmart in Washington, D.C., courtesy of Walmart

About the Author

Tyler Falk

Tyler Falk is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities.

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