Walmart's retail footprint is both shrinking and expanding at the same time. Here's why.

2 months ago by James Mattone in Trends
Walton's 5&10 in Bentonville, AR. Credit: Joshua Fruhlinger

Here's an alternative data riddle: what can both grow and shrink at the same time? A company's retail footprint.

Specifically, Walmart ($NYSE:WMT) — which just beat earnings and had its best first quarter in nine years — is seeing its store count and square footage change year-over-year. Combined with a continued rapid growth in digital sales both through its online store and Jet.com, this all indicates how the company is shifting its strategy to fight off the #RetailApocalypse and e-commerce giants like Amazon ($NASDAQ:AMZN).

Right now, Walmart operates 4,763 individual locations (excluding Sam's Club) according to its investor relations website. That's up seven stores from its last report on January 31, 2019. But here's the thing, while this was a net increase, Walmart actually closed some of its bigger stores. The increase occurred because the retail giant opened a dozen "eCommerce Acquisition stores," as stated in its own reports.

Walmart's larger stores all cater to different markets across the country. According to 2017 estimated median income data, Walmarts tend to be in more expensive zip codes, Neighborhood Markets are in the middle, and Supercenters are in lower income zip codes. Which makes sense; Supercenters are more likely to be found in rural areas where land is plentiful for the hundreds of thousands of square feet.

Entity Name

Median Income by Zip (2017)

Walmart

$64,925.78

Walmart Neighborhood Market

$59,419.04

Walmart Supercenter

$55,507.59

Although Walmart continues to expand by sheer number of stores, the square footage of these locations is shifting over time according to its own data. Compared to January 2015, the average square footage for Supercenters decreased, while regular Walmarts and Neighborhood Markets saw a net increase.

Entity Name Square Footage (Average, Jan. 2015) Square Footage (Average, Apr. 2019) Change (Square Feet)
Walmart

104,951.223

105,214.174

262.951
Neighborhood Market

37,419.83

41,935.30

4,515.47
Supercenter

178,284.299

177,624.375

-659.924

Meanwhile, the average square footage of an "eCommerce Acquisition Store" dwarfs that of even a Neighborhood market; 1,960.02 square feet compared to 41,935.30.


Meanwhile, Amazon expands its fulfillment centers

One of Walmart's biggest competitors today now has over a thousand openings for warehouse and order fulfillment positions, which is a trend that further rationalizes the company's decision to focus on smaller stores and its online presence.

Amazon job openings that contain the word "fulfillment center" — which filters in positions that direct relate to how Amazon processes and ships out orders — ramped up significantly, nearly doubling since July 2018.

Walmart is clearly shifting itself to keep up with the times, and to a business that it reports as booming. But as they are doing so, Amazon is already beefing up to stay ahead in the e-commerce race for the largest market share.

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James Mattone

James is the Associate Editor at Thinknum Media, mainly covering video games, food, and tech news, but not afraid to head into Sephora or beauty brands if need be...

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