Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
As of fiscal-year ending Jan. 31, 2006, the world’s No. 1 retailer - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. - continues to grow in size and stature within the buildings industry through its winning combination of store formats: 1,980 Supercenters, which average approximately 187,000 square feet in size and offer a wide assortment of general merchandise and a full-line supermarket; 1,209 Discount Stores, which average approximately 102,000 square feet in size and offer a wide assortment of general merchandise and a limited variety of food products; 100 Neighborhood Markets, which average approximately 42,000 square feet in size and offer a full-line supermarket and a limited assortment of general merchandise; and its SAM’S CLUB segment of 567 merchandise warehouse clubs, which average approximately 129,000 square feet in size and account for 12.7 percent of Wal-Mart Stores’ FY06 sales. Total sales during this past fiscal year netted $312.4 billion (of which 20.1 percent is represented outside the United States), with additional numbers of stores adding to those noted above.
However, Wal-Mart’s business involves much more than low prices, a wide breadth of merchandise, a small-town flavor, and friendly greeters at each store entrance. Its real estate arm - Wal-Mart Realty, also based in Bentonville, AR - repurposes the organization’s former properties for disposition (sale, lease, and/or sublease) and handles land development for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. A vertical integration of its real estate operations allows this mega-giant to control its own destiny; namely, its environment, costs, and power in the marketplace. But, it didn’t happen overnight; the company’s approach to real estate development began as an entrepreneurial mission to uncover industry best practices, the result being a “blueprint” that established well-defined facility and site-selection parameters and a commitment to maintaining its 757.6 million square feet of properties at the highest level.
Once exercising a facilities philosophy that predominantly influenced cost and production curves, key design and operations professionals have now turned their attention to the organization’s all-encompassing sustainability initiative. Here, Wal-Mart is pursuing how efficiency, technologies, and new ideas can evolve into an economic model that makes them feasible. Last October, Wal-Mart’s CEO made a public pledge that the company would reduce its energy consumption - in all existing facilities - by 20 percent over the next 7 years. Furthermore, that commitment involved the development of a new prototype for implementation within the next 4 years that’s 30-percent more efficient than today’s existing format. Wal-Mart’s ultimate objective: achieving 100-percent renewable power and zero waste. Preposterous? Some think so; but, this powerful force - often the center of media attention and public outcry - controls and influences so much of the retail market that any green initiatives won’t merely make ripples; they’ll make huge waves. Perhaps that will mean a mainstreaming of environmental strategies that will also affect the associated building products’ and materials’ price tags. Fitting, don’t you think?