When it comes to companies, it can be hard to get a feel for their size. They may say they’re “big,” but what does that actually mean? Consider Walmart (WMT), for example. This year, for the seventh time in the past decade, Fortune magazine awarded the retailer the No. 1 slot on its annual list of the 500 largest American companies, as measured by revenues (total earnings before subtracting out expenses).
According to Fortune, Walmart sold $421,849,000,000 worth of stuff last year. The largest purchase most of us will ever make is our house: If all Walmart sold were new homes, which averaged $268,900 in April, that would be almost 1.59 million homes.
That’s also just about the same amount of money that the United States spent in 2009 for the entire year’s worth of Medicare, the government program that provides health insurance to senior citizens and younger Americans who are permanently disabled. That $421.8 billion is also about $9 billion less than Taiwan’s 2010 gross domestic product — the total value of the country’s goods and services in a single year — and $7 billion more than Norway’s 2010 GDP. In other words, if Walmart were a country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.
Speaking of countries, let’s talk population: Fortune reports that 2.1 million people work at Walmart, which means there are about as many Walmart employees sprinkled across the globe as there are people living in the African country of Namibia (yes, that Namibia, where Anegelia Jolie gave birth). There are another 95 countries with populations smaller than the retailer’s sprawling workforce, including Botswana, Kosovo, The Gambia, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahrain, Cyprus, Qatar, Luxembourg, Belize, Iceland, The Bahamas and Greenland.
Discussing parking lots, naturally, brings us to driving. According to Fortune, the company’s nearly 8,000 drivers logged 749 million miles in 2010, the equivalent of circling the Earth not once, not twice, not a thousand times, but 30,000 thousand times. No wonder Fortune once called the retailer “Planet Walmart.” It does feel like they are creating a branded, discount world in which we are all headed for citizenship, whether we like it or not.