In the retail universe, there are retailers and then there is Walmart. Normal rules do not apply to this US colossus, whose annual revenues of almost $560bn are roughly equal to those of the next five global physical retailers combined. If Walmart was a country, it would be one of the world's 25 richest, with revenues higher than the GDP of nations including Belgium, Thailand or Argentina. With Walmart, all the numbers are big. The company is the world's largest non-governmental employer, with around 2.2m associates. At least another 4m people have jobs that depend directly upon purchases by the group. Yet the company is less than 60 years old, and virtually all its extraordinary growth in the US since the first Walmart store opened in 1962 has been generated organically, rather than as a result of acquisition. The US is home to some 4,740 outlets ranging from neighbourhood stores to hypermarkets, and the group also has a mammoth ecommerce operation, enhanced through the acquisition of Jet.com in 2016. It is the second largest online retailer in the US behind - some way behind - Amazon. In 2020, Walmart made a fresh attempt to close the gap with its online rival with the introduction of a subscription-based membership service, Walmart+, similar in style to Amazon Prime. The main Walmart stores division is partnered by Sam's Club, one of the two leading members-only warehouse clubs in the US (the other is CostCo). This is a mammoth business in its own right, with 600 outlets and around 46m members. But America is by no means the only market to experience the Walmart effect. The group is also a force in the international arena with 6,100 outlets in 15 other countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. But not all Walmart's international ventures have been successful, and the group's interest in overseas markets has waned dramatically. Germany, South Korea, Brazil and most recently Japan are all important markets where the group tried to establish a lasting presence, but eventually called it quits. The UK - where Walmart operates as Asda - is the company's biggest international territory, but even here it has recently reduced its position to minority shareholder. China and Japan are important footholds in Asia, as is India, where the group acquired control of online retail giant Flipkart. In the Americas, it is a major force in Canada and Mexico, as well as in Chile and several markets in Central America. It also has a controlling stake in South African retail conglomerate Massmart. Brands include Builders, Rhino, Game and the local arm of wholesale warehouse Makro. Like other essentials retailers, Walmart enjoyed a significant lift from pandemic-related buying in 2020. For the year ending Jan 2021, group revenues hit a new high of $559.2bn, but net income slipped by 9% to $13.5bn because of losses associated with the sale of operations in Japan and the UK. Walmart USA accounted for two-thirds of group sales and more than three-quarters of profits. Sam's Club added a further $63.9bn in revenues, and Walmart International the remaining $126bn. The business is still controlled by the family of founder Sam Walton, who own around 54% of equity between them. Their combined wealth was estimated at $215bn in 2020. Doug McMillon is CEO.
Capsule checked 1st May 2020
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Historical profile information for Walmart
Marketer Moves 17th Jan 2022: Two senior marketers depart Walmart. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Update 27th May 2021: Gap is diversifying into home goods for the first time. It plans to launch a range of furnishings, bedding, pillows and other decorative items, and has signed an exclusive distribution deal with Walmart. The products will initially be sold only through Walmart's online channels, but will also roll out to physical retail outlets if demand is strong. The arrangement has significant potential benefits for both companies. Walmart has for years struggled to establish a presence in premium home goods and apparel, while Gap is still fighting to rebuild its relationship with consumers.
Marketer Moves 7th April 2021: New chief creative officer at Walmart. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Nov 2020: Walmart continued its gradual withdrawal from international markets with a deal to sell virtually all of its long-troubled Japanese subsidiary Seiyu. That follows the disposal of Walmart Argentina earlier this month (at an expected post-tax loss of $1bn) to Latin American retailer Grupo de Narvaez, as well as October's sale of Asda. Investment group KKR is to acquire 65% control of Seiyu, with local ecommerce retailer Rakuten taking a 15% stake. Walmart will retain the remaining 15%. The deal valued Seiyu at around $1.6bn, generating another as yet undisclosed loss for Walmart. The US group spent around $2bn to acquire full control of Seiyu between 2002 and 2007.
Adbrands Daily Update 5th Oct 2020: After a protracted search, Walmart finally found a buyer for its UK supermarket Asda. Though it will retain an as yet undisclosed stake in the business, majority control is to be acquired by brothers Mohsin and Zube Issa in partnership with private equity investor TDR Capital. It has not yet been disclosed precisely what holdings the Issas, TDR and Walmart will end up with, but the arrangement values Asda at £6.8bn. That's less than the valuation in Walmart's books: the retail giant will take a $2.5bn net loss on the sale. The Issa brothers are the owners of convenience store and garage forecourt operators EG Group, which they built up from one single outlet to a global empire of 6,000 sites with revenues of €20bn. Combined sales of Asda and EG Group will be £40bn, making the business the UK's second biggest retailer after Tesco.
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Sep 2020: Confusion reigns in the TikTok negotiations. Further changes were announced over the weekend following the intervention of the US government. Under that arrangement, Chinese company Bytedance would transfer TikTok into a new corporate entity, that will operate the social media service in the US and most other countries except China. Bytedance said it would retain 80% ownership of this new TikTok Global company, and could reduce its stake further in a US-based IPO earmarked for 2021. Oracle, meanwhile, was expected to end up with around 12.5%, partnered by Walmart with 7.5%. Since Bytedance is itself already 40% owned by US investors, it was argued that the new TikTok Global business would in effect be majority owned by US-based companies. Oracle would also become TikTok Global's cloud computing partner and "trusted technology partner", while Walmart will provide as yet unspecified "omnichannel retail capabilities". Yet only a day later, both sides were already arguing over those terms, with Oracle claiming "ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global". Meanwhile President Trump reiterated his threat not to approve any deal that leaves a Chinese company with majority control of the business. Talks continue...
Adbrands Daily Update 16th Jul 2020: In arguably the strongest rebuke yet to American "anti-maskers", the country's biggest retailer Walmart says it will require customers to wear face coverings in all its stores from Monday. "We know some people have differing opinions on this topic," said the company in a statement. "We also recognise the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials." Several other retailers have already introduced such a rule including Apple, Starbucks, Best Buy, Costco, Kohl's and Kroger. However, the National Retail Federation called Walmart's move "the tipping point in this public health debate" and urged all other stores to follow suit.
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