Watching the Growth of Walmart

The ever so popular Walmart growth map gets an update, and yes, it still looks like a wildfire. I’ve added openings up to the planned one in Virgina (in May of this year) as well as openings for Sam’s Club, the Walmart-owned warehouse club. Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico locations are in there too now.

As you might expect, Sam’s Club locations appear to trail Walmart locations (except in Hawaii and Alaska).

What you might not expect though is all the Puerto Rico locations. I didn’t realize it was so popular there. They got their first one in 1971, well before the first California location in 1990. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable.

Check it out for yourself. See any interesting patterns?

P.S. You can find out more about how this was done here, and download the (outdated) code here.


  • When are you going to add Canadian store locations? The interesting thing about Walmart’s growth is that it is so organic. Even with a 1000 stores it is overwhelmingly focused south central part of the US. But in Canada Walmart grew by buying all 122 Woolco stores in 1994. They have since added another 200 stores or so, but it would be an interesting contrast.

    By the way there is one Sam’s club appearing in Canada currently. Somewhere near Prince George, BC, and is certainly there in error.

    • i’ll include walmart openings around the rest of the world… when the data is made available to me.

      • I zoomed out for a global view and saw several flashes in the area of the Dominican Republic. What were those, and how many are there?

      • those are the puerto rico locations. there are about 45 of them.

      • Captnmiller April 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm

        Nathan, was curious if you have any data reflecting how the percentage of American made products WM carries has changed over the years? Granted trade and transport logistics have changed dramatically since their inception allowing foreign products to be more accessible, but it just seems that in their quest to force the lowest purchase price for their products they have all but left American based companies behind. I remember as a kid seeing signs ‘Made in the USA’ hanging all over the store. All those signs are now gone and every year many of their products are subject to health/safety recalls (foreign standards and quality control are much lower/non-existent). Would like to know if there is any data to back this up or if I simply have a jaded opinion toward the franchise?

      • Captnmiller,

        I agree with your concerns about quality controls — but your generalization of quality controls relating to a lack of foreign standards is erroneous.

        What a lot of people don’t realize is that the US is one of the few countries that have next to no laws governing standards and quality controls. 98% of other countries do. Take Australia for example. In order to sell a product in Australia, you have to have meet a specific set of criteria to sell there. Typically, on other countries standards carry the weight of law. In the US, they don’t.

        For example: Remember the old “UL” symbol on a lot of our electrical here in the US? Where you expected to see that symbol as a sign of quality, but also with some suggested expectation that the lamp you just bought had met with some standard of quality? Well you probably made the assumption that you couldn’t sell a lamp here in the US without it right? You would be wrong. Most if not all of the products in the US have no laws governing quality or safety. If any exist those laws have been weakened to the point of being useless.

        What I’m getting at is that if you were to take that same lamp that got sold in the US, y’know, the one with all the lead in it?

        Well that same type of lamp can’t be sold in Australia, unless it didn’t include the lead, and it received a seal of assurance that it complied with Australian laws and standards.

        The same type of rules exist in most of the countries around the world. given that, you should note a lot of these asian companies producing product for those other countries do in fact produce products of excellent quality and standard for those countries to consume, and in some cases, sure it’s more expensive — but that country doesn’t have the buying power of America behind it to drive down the cost.

        I would love to see “Made in the USA” all over a Walmart, Target or any other superstore, but I would love to see no matter what is that we have products sold to us that are at least the decent standards other countries get by default because their elected officials created a condition that was properly regulated and demanded standard and quality, for the safety and health of all. If you did that, you’d see a lot more “Made in the USA” products on our shelves than you do now. We could once again be competitive to an asian product inside our own country.

        Something to think about.

      • Mad Jayhawk June 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

        Jonathan. This is off topic a bit. As a former drug company employee I can tell you assuredly that every product made by drug companies is manufactured according to Good Manufacturing Practices, a standard that is developed by the company and approved by the FDA. The company’s records of each batch of drugs is open to inspection and if deviations in the procedures used to make and test the drug are found, the company can be fined, its officers jailed, and the company’s doors padlocked. It has happened. The company I worked for had a quality control department that was entirely independent of the manufacturing department and its decisions were final and non negiotiable when it came to quality issues. You might think otherwise but you are wrong. Poor quality in our case could kill thousands of people. It is possible that something could slip through all the checks and balances but highly unlikely. The FDA would have surprise inspections of our records, our plant, and our production and heaven help us if any major problems were found. We had a semi-major record keeping once problem they gave us a week to remediate or they were going to lock the doors. The person responsible was fired. The problem was fixed. If the government had exercise the same diligence in their licensing and inspecting the oil rig in the Gult that accident would have never happened. Even competent, well-,meaning, and honest people have to have a little fear built into their systems in my opinion when the stakes are so high. Those irrational people who want to have our drugs cheaply manufactured in other countries have never been to those countries to witness what their standards, if any, are for manufacturing drugs. Fellow employees visiting Mexico had just one word for how they did things there: Scary. It is very very easy to screw up a batch of drugs.

  • Check out their acquisitions in Europe. inc Asda in UK.. big players indeed.

  • Wow, that’s beautiful. I did not know Walmart was mostly an East American phenomenon.

  • Hey – the infection’s just kept spreading and spreading! Is there any danger it’ll kill its host?


  • Decline to State April 7, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I’m a huge fan of FlowingData, but I’ve noticed you made fun of those who you judged as not adequately or accurately describing the statistics they used (e.g., when you made fun of a Fox news report in the past). Well …

    100% more than 0 Sam’s Club would still be 0. I assume you understand percentages, and that this was an innocent, unimportant mistake. Just like the one you previously made fun of. I’m just saying.

    • ah, but the difference is i’m just messing around in the title whereas the fox news chart was meant to be taken seriously.

      • Decline to State April 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

        No, the difference is that you are a professional statistician, and the obvious blunder was not obvious to you. I’m willing to bet that in areas where you are not an expert, you make blunders that experts would find laughable – you should cut Fox and others some slack, especially since your analysis of their “error” was itself quite flawed. What the news “reader” read off the teleprompter was quite accurate, yet you acted as though he should have had some issue with the numbers (which obviously allowed respondents to select more than one response, perhaps not obvious to you) – “I wonder if the newscaster even bats an eye as he’s reading the numbers off the teleprompter”. As to the choice of a pie chart, perhaps that was unfortunate, but not as unfortunate as your holier than thou attitude while being a statistical sinner just like these amateurs …

      • Its just another pissed off fox nathan ;)

    • PCPrincess April 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

      Actually, his profession or his ability in statistics makes no difference as he is not ‘reporting’ statistical information in a venue which serves to make money. Fox News on the other hand is a news site who’s main goal is to make a profit. They should be held to a much higher standard than Nathan on his personal website.

      • MikeInSeoul April 9, 2010 at 1:29 am

        Additionally, Fox can hire or contract professional expertise/support for statistical needs, but doesn’t for whatever reason. There’s just no excuse for that kind of behavior from a purported “news” organization.

      • Decline to State April 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm

        Look, the holier-than-thou comments NEVER seem to come at obvious CNN gaffes (like say the 2000 presidential election).

        Stop being defensive, and just take the point. This was a huge mistake by a finger-pointer. Say “oops, my bad, perhaps I’ll cut amateurs some more slack in the future,” and it’s over.

      • Hear, hear! Will somebody please tell “Decline to State” that he is seriously outnumbered? There are more honest, hard-working people of character than there are Foxies. We KNOW that FOX is owned and operated by the haves, and that they want the have-nots to starve. They have no interest in keeping the playing field level (therefore, they are not committed to our Democratic Republic) and if they can get one person to do the work of two people for the wages of half a person, they will.

        Walmart is a master at this art, and has been taken to court in Wisconsin for its refusal to provide employees with medical benefits “when there is a state paid program for families without insurance.”

        The same people who have so much money that they can buy whatever health care they need, and who (conversely) declare that single-payer health coverage is unconstitutional, refuse to cover their workers with health benefits, because the taxpayers in the State already provide it. What’s wrong with this picture? These people talk out of both sides of their mouths. They are dangerous and un-American. They are selfish and greedy. And they will rot in HELL.

      • What you call “Greedy” is what built this country. This is not a country of socialism. I am neither a have nor a have-not, but somewhere in the middle. I spent a lot of time and money getting a good education. When I apply for a job, I not only check the salary but the benefits. I have the ability to do this because I sacrificed.

        You on the other hand seem to think there is a “right” to things only because you feel there should be. Go live in Greece and see how that works out. I am sick of having my hard earned money taken from me and given to slackers because people like you feel that I should be punished for planning my life and working hard to get where I am.

        Fortunately this country is mostly right of center and this obamacare garbage will never get funded. You may not realize this, but if it does get funded, the insurance companies will be out of business in 2 years, your income taxes will go up to 80% like in europe and you will have a value-added tax added to your purchases in addition to that. When you need care you will have to wait for months, because doctors are already leaving the medical field because of too much paperwork and too little reimbursement and soon there will be 300 million new people to take care of with reimbursements less than the cost of the care,

        If you were ordered to suddenly pay for the privilege of working, ir it costs you more for the tools you need to do your job than you get paid for doing it, how much longer would you continue to work? Well do you expect doctors to do that? That is what happens with Medicare now, but doctors tolerate it because they make more off of private insurance patients, but that is about to change because the government wil get involved.

        So, keep hoping for what you want and see how much you like it when it gets here and you really need it. As for me, I will fly to Costa Rica or the Czech Republic for real medical when I need it because I am going to opt out of this crap, pay my $750 annual fine, and decide to get “insurance” if something happens to me and the companies will have to insure me on the spot, because that is how this new law works. Good luck with it!


    • There are currently 602 Sam’s Club locations in the United States. For this illustration, lets call this number X .

      We know that 0% of any number is equal to 0. Therefore, 0% of X also equals 0. If no Sam’s Club locations were reported, we would say on that graphic, there was 0% shown.

      100% = 1.

      0% + 100% = 100%

      Thus, if all Sam’s Club locations are shown, 100% of them are shown.

      Decline to State, your argument hold that there are 0 Sam’s Club locations, but this is not true, there are 602. The previous graphic simply reported 0% and is now reporting 100%, a change of +100%.

  • yummy Walmart. Re: Canadian Walmart. My Walmart is the only store open past 10 p.m. (or maybe midnight) in this, the nation’s capital of this great country. Their electronics section sucks but everything else is OK. Canadians are used to going to Zellers anyway Walmart is no big deal for us.

    • “Canadians are used to going to Zellers anyway”

      That’s still no reason to shop at Wally-Mart. Zellers is still open, yes? And part of Hudson’s Bay Co., so you can support the oldest store in N. America, not just the most rapacious.

  • Robin Randall April 7, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Flowing data makes statistics cool. Use your power for good folks!

  • Interesting, but I see a couple that I know have closed up and left town within the last year… it would be interesting to see where they are failing as well.

    • MikeInSeoul April 9, 2010 at 2:41 am

      Yes, I agree! Plus, that in conjunction with the international data. For instance, Wal-Mart’s entry failed here in South Korea. They got bought out by a Korean competitor in 2006, and have never come back.

  • What about the closing data? Do we know which of those stores closed and when?

  • Interesting visualization. Can we also get to know the store distribution pattern across pacific northwest too?

  • My bad . Saw it again and got the answer.. :)

  • how about showing employment and/or small business numbers. I would really like to see how the world changed from this bigbox store.

  • OsakaBrian April 9, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Five stores appeared suddenly in South Carolina in about 1980. What was that?

    I think an audio supplement with each appearing bubble would really make the presentation come alive.

  • just outcourcing jobs to china

  • RICHARD RALPH ROEHL April 9, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Old Coyote Knose… that the insane DOCTRINE OF PERPETUAL GROWTH of the human population and global consumer economy (i.e.: Wal Mart) on Planet Over-Birth Earth, a fragile HOST ORGANISM of finite space and finite resources, cannot be sustained much longer.

    Finite growth in a closed looped system (Earth) is NOT progress. It is cancer! Full blown cancer! Take a good look at Nathan Yau’s interactive map of Wal Mart $tores (a.k.a.: China Red Inc.). It is like a fungus… a wildfire… a fatal cancer. And this explains why Rome is burning!

    Two more things…


    • So are you saying you are opposed to the plans to open a Walmart in the International Space Station?

      • Mad Jayhawk June 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

        No Walmarts on the International Space Station until they open a Starbucks on it. They haven’t have they?

  • This, too, shall pass.

  • I have a real love-hate relationship with WalMart. I’m conflicted about shopping there….but it’s so, so much cheaper than anything else around. In my area, two Sam’s clubs have closed recently. It’s not worth the 45 minute drive to get to one now. They are huge empty spaces–can’t imagine who could use such a big space.

  • To answer my own question posted above, the closing data aren’t available — at least not from the data source listed above:

  • We are the Borg! Resistance is futile!

  • You know if you watch that and smoke a joint and then put on DEVO’s first album it’s like in perfect time with the music.

  • Disgusted American April 15, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    That video disgusts me. Walmart has become our national Dandelion. It looks kind of pretty, but we all know its a weed that needs to be pulled. Walmart should be restricted to only one state, instead of the whole country. Walmart reminds me of Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate factory, “Augustus Save some room for later!”

  • Nathan,

    They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. You may find this interesting:

    Daniel Ferry

  • Awesome!! It’s quite surprising to see this in a visual map

  • I’d like to see a comparision map with all the stores they put out of business.

  • Very cool and neat idea! Any way a pause button could be added?

    Zooming into the areas where I live it seems that the locations are very accurate; it’d be nice to be able to see where else they pop up but when the video ends it turns black.

  • Really not terribly surprising but the growth of Walmart pretty much falls on areas with lower incomes, only in the past decade did they expand to more affluent locations, such as the West and Northeast. But then that is Walmart’s key to success, low priced products. When you are affluent, you are not apt to shop at a Walmart.

    • Mad Jayhawk June 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

      Dumb rich people do not shop at Walmart. Smart rich people do. A jar of Skippy peanut butter in Walmart is the same as the jar in the upscale market that offers valet parking and fancy lighting. Why pay for ambiance, services you don’t need or unionized workers with crappy I-do-not-care-you-can’t-fire-me attitudes? I see lots of Beemers in Walmart parking lots.

  • Visuals are well-made but do not suffice. Lots of information is presented but little is quantified. Also, I feel helpless as this visualization marches along. I’m a passenger when I want to drive. The year and store count labels are too far from the map and flash by too quickly to be made any sense of. Ditch them and give me store count plot and timeline at the bottom with a cursor that plays in sync with the map but allows me to pause or navigate to any year at any time. Bonus points: quantify regional activity, perhaps labels or bars along the timeline.

  • It would be interesting to contrast the growing number of Wal-mart stores over time with the growing national trade deficit with China over the same period of time.

  • What might be interesting too is the growth of Starbucks, McDonalds or the Gap. All just exploded on the scene i a short period of time.

  • Scott Sorli May 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    It would be nice if the data didn’t stop at the US border. The phenomenon doesn’t.

  • Wal-Mart….
    Giving the middle of nowhere a place to buy low-quality Chinese made products and keeping Americans out of work, uninsured, and underpaid since 1962.

  • Just want everyone here to know that employment in the United States is still voluntary. If you don’t want to work for Walmart, don’t. It is that simple. I know of no one who is forced to work for this company. Sam Walton was a Ben Franklin franchisee who saw problems with that company and sought to do better on his own. He was very successful. Seems lots of you out there are jealous. Stop whining and build your own empire, since in America it is still possible.

    • Clive Young 111 May 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm

      True……………the way the economy is now,I’m happy with Walmart. I don’t know how other people do it,but I’m glad…………………4 kid’s in college and life is good thank you Sam (What ain’t made in China?)

    • Mad Jayhawk June 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

      You are 100% right. Involuntary servitude in this country ended in 1862. People shouldn’t work there if they do not like how they are paid, their benefits, or how they are treated. They are free to work wherever they like. The stores are very benefitial to the working class. Decent products and very good prices. If there was no Walmart and everyone had to shop at Safeway or Target our standard of living would be in the dumpster because our money could not go as far. Walmart forces everyone’s prices down and that benefits us all. The unions just want to get in so they can have clerks just standing around shooting the bull and getting paid so they bad-mouth Walmart. The public would not benefit at all from Walmart being unionized. Prices would have to go up to pay for worthless union work rules and wages for work not done. Someone would have to be insane to want that.

  • Well, there is a Walmart in Shanghai. I’m not sure where they import their merchandise from.

  • Mad Jayhawk June 1, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I understand that Walmart’s sales in China are greater than in the US. Sam initially built new stores within a day’s drive of Bentonville, AK so that the stores could be serviced from one distribution center. I visited the first Walmart in Arkansas in the 1970s and our little town in Missouri got one somewhere around 1973. It was small and packed to the rafters with merchandise. Sam stopped in often. The checkout counters were made of plywood. If you were an employee in the 1960s and 1970s and bought stock from the company you’d be a multi-millionaire now. There are stories of check-out clerks buying a little stock at a time during that period becoming millionaires. A real success story. I think they are on the way downhill now. The store makeovers for older stores are crap. They have eliminated one of the biggest reasons for shopping at Walmart – selection. The world does not need another stupid Target store.

  • FYI – Arkansas is AR, not AK (that is Alaska).

    • Mad Jayhawk June 11, 2010 at 6:06 pm

      Both of them are beautiful states with great people. I had a hard time choosing between living in Conway or in the Phoenix area when I retired. Both have nice Walmarts.

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