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

Most Popular

  1. A photo of couples dancing in a park.
    Life

    The Geography of Online Dating

    When looking for love, most people don’t look far from home. That's what a big-data analysis of interactions on a dating site revealed.

  2. A photo of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris.
    Design

    Amid Notre-Dame’s Destruction, There’s Hope for Restoration

    Flames consumed the roof and spire of the 13th-century cathedral in Paris. The good news: Gothic architecture is built to handle this kind of disaster.

  3. South Lake Union streetcar with an advertisement for Amazon passes by an Amazon office building.
    Equity

    Amazon’s Slow Retreat From Seattle

    Amazon has long fancied itself an urban enterprise. Is its pivot to smaller communities a way to avoid messy politics?

  4. Life

    Why Did Arkansas Change Its Mind on Municipal Broadband?

    Eight years after banning cities and towns from building high-speed internet networks, state lawmakers unanimously reversed course. Will more red states follow?

  5. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.