Wal-Mart's Social and Economic Impact
Four-Part Series Examines Influence of Largest U.S. Employer

Wal-Mart Facts

» Wal-Mart employs more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

» The company has more than 3,000 stores and offices across the United States and more than 1,000 stores internationally.

» Last year, Wal-Mart earned $244 billion in revenue -- more than any other U.S. company.

» In 1970, Wal-Mart offered 300,000 shares of common stock to the public at a price of $16.50 per share. Since that time, the company has had 11 two-for-one stock splits.

» In 1992, President George H.W. Bush presented Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton with the Medal of Freedom, the highest government award given to a civilian.

Source: Wal-Mart.com and NPR News reports

June 2003 -- Earlier this year, Fortune Magazine named Wal-Mart the nation's most admired company. It now has more revenue and more employees than any other U.S. company. Wal-Mart's growth over the last decade is unprecedented -- the company has gone from being a successful discount retailer to being a dominant force that no other retailer can ignore.

In a four-part series for Morning Edition, NPR News explores the rise of Wal-Mart, examining the company's low-cost philosophy, its impact on more traditional mom-and-pop retailers and its growing pains as Wal-Mart fights lawsuits alleging it discriminates against women and resists paying overtime to its employees.

Stories in this series:

Listen Small-Town Capitalism, Big-Time Technology
NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports on Wal-Mart's corporate culture, its roots in small-town capitalism, and the way the company has built its success on hard working, mostly rural employees and an unerring commitment to low overhead. Goodwyn also profiles Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who before his death in 1992 cultivated a corporate mantra of paying meticulous attention to what local shoppers are looking for -- and built a state-of-the-art distribution system to make it happen.
Heard Monday, June 2, 2003.

Listen Risk and Reward in 'Vendorville'
In the second report in the series, NPR's Wade Goodwyn profiles "Vendorville" -- the community of more than 200 major corporations that have established offices in Bentonville, Ark., in order to work more closely with Wal-Mart headquarters. These companies -- ranging from household goods manufacturer Rubbermaid to entertainment giants like Disney and Dreamworks -- see their futures closely intertwined with Wal-Mart. But there are risks as well as rewards for relying on Wal-Mart's business.
Heard Tuesday, June 3, 2003.

Listen Main Street USA, Surviving the Wal-Mart Challenge
In part three, NPR's Jim Zarroli examines what happens to a small town's Main Street when a Wal-Mart opens up nearby. Usually, the Wal-Mart draws customers away from local merchants. But Zarroli reports that merchants in some small towns have found a way to survive -- co-existing, if not competing, with the retail giant. Zarroli profiles Viroqua, Wis., a small town that's managed to keep its downtown business district thriving years after Wal-Mart came to town.
Heard Wednesday, June 4, 2003.

Listen Cost Cutting and Court Challenges
In the series finale, NPR's Scott Horsley reports on Wal-Mart's obsession with reducing costs in every part of its operations, and whether cost-cutting -- generally seen as a good thing -- can be taken too far. Some economists believe the company holds down general price inflation and wages in the retail industry. Critics say Wal-Mart is such an effective competitor that it is gradually forcing down the wages and living standards of retail workers who aren't even employed by Wal-Mart.
Heard Thursday, June 5, 2003.

In Depth

click for more Browse more NPR News coverage of Wal-Mart

Other Resources

click for more Wal-Mart official Web site