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Why Walmart still reigns as America's retail king (for now)

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

With Amazon-owned Whole Foods looking to take over Sears stores, it is helpful to remember the massive footprint Walmart locations make across the U.S.

Yahoo Finance used Walmart (WMT) data to locate more than 4,700 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. (The total number of Walmart-owned locations is 5,352, according to the company.)

The huge number of Walmart locations creates the retail advantage of being ubiquitous — most Americans live within 15 miles of a Walmart — that helps the retail giant thrive while Amazon (AMZNleads the way in e-commerce.

Walmart locations span the United States. (image: David Foster)

Walmart locations help lead to $500 billion in revenue

Walmart began in Rogers, Ark., in 1962, under the stewardship of the late founder and chairman Sam Walton. The company first reached $1 billion in sales in 1979 and had 276 stores by the beginning of the 1980s. 

Over time, the company became a behemoth, with at least one store in every state in the U.S. and Walmart locations in 26 other countries.

Walmart’s total revenue for the fiscal year in 2018 was a staggering $500 billion — which exceeds the size of the gross domestic product of Belgium.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum even compared Walmart’s revenue numbers to the most developed countries of the world and found that Walmart beat Australia, South Korea and India.

An employee works on a display ahead of Black Friday at a Walmart store in Chicago, Nov. 20, 2018. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Amazon vs. Walmart

Walmart has invested heavily in new technologies to keep up with its chief competitor, Amazon.

Walmart recently invested in robotics to improve its online grocery pickup service, using virtual reality to train store associates and even launched a service that helps customers check out faster with roving store associates with handheld checkout devices.

It has even planned projects that look like they’re straight out of a “Jetsons” movie — like using autonomous vehicles to deliver purchases from various Walmart locations.

Yahoo Finance reporter Julia La Roche observes the Alphabot in action at Massachusetts-based Alert Innovation, which is working with Walmart to make robots. (Photo: Julia La Roche/Yahoo Finance)

The company has also pushed into India last year with its acquisition — the company’s biggest ever — of Indian e-commerce company Flipkart.

Headwinds for Walmart include the ongoing trade tensions with China, which have affected the business because of the tariffs on China-made goods, and a looming shortage of truck drivers (which it has aggressively hedged against with a fast-tracked mass hiring spree).

Nevertheless, at this point — if its investments into emerging technologies pay off — the Walmart empire could retain its crown as the No. 1 retailer in America.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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