Wal-Mart's total area larger than Manhattan's

The total area of the worlds' Wal-Marts is larger than the total area of Manhattan; Good Magazine's infographic tells the story. Link (via Kottke)


  1. I can’t remember the last time I was in a Wal-Mart.
    Maybe 7 to 10 years ago, tops.
    There isn’t one in my town and the closest one is about 45 minutes to an hour away, I think. I haven’t been there but I’ve seen it from the freeway.

  2. Of course, the total area of Manhattan is bigger than Manhattan as well – probably 8-10 times as big.

  3. A lot of the other retailers on the chart are smaller in size; coffeeshops, fast food places and convenience stores are hardly going to match the behemoth that is the Wal-Mart Supercenter. I’d be interested in seeing where Target, Best Buy, Home Depot — even Walgreens — would fit here.

    Also, does the size include the parking lot? ‘Cause Wal-Marts tend to have some big honkin’ parking lots.

  4. i’m not getting part of the chart. the verticle is labeled number of stores. but surely wendys doesn’t outstrip macdonalds in that area. It seems they stacked them purely by acreage.

  5. That chart is entirely bogus. There is no way that Burger King has many times more the number of stores than McDonalds. In fact, if you google “number of burger king stores” you get data that supports 11,000 stores, not close to 130,000 stores.

    And Wendy’s at the top?? Wikipedia says 6700 stores, not 150,000 stores!

    Wikipedia also lists McDonalds as 31,000 stores.

    Also, why is Central park marked in at 850 acres at a spot that should be more like 4000 acres. I don’t trust any of the numbers!

    Everything on that chart is suspect, especially the vertical axis. However, I did a sanity check on walmart vs Manhattan.
    Walmart has about 3000 stores each about 200,000 sq ft. That is 600 million sq ft, or ~20 sq miles. Manhattan has about 23 sq miles of “land” and 34 sq miles of “area” (what is the difference?) according to wikipedia. So, doing the math more carefully, it is possible that Walmart is “bigger”.

  6. Some criticism of the graph as a visual display:

    The graph stacks store count serially in the vertical dimension (as a share of the total 152,040 stores counted) but uses information from the horizontal dimension to order the vertical listing. So McDonald’s has a thicker slice than Wendy’s, indicating more total stores, even though it is lower on the axis. Surface area is displayed horizontally in parallel. The serial/parallel display on the two axes is inconsistent and therefore confusing at first; perhaps more explicit labeling would at least help.

    Also, use of apparently multi-dimensional shapes makes it unclear from looking whether the horizontal direction scales linearly, as a simple bar would indicate; or exponentially, corresponding to the actual displayed surface area of the three-circle forms as seen. Either way, there’s going to be a visual discrepancy, and again, labels would help.

  7. The underlying information is interesting, but Edward Tufte would tear the designer behind that infographic a new bar-chart.

  8. This discussion is starting to remind me of the one for the ikea time chart.

    I didn’t find anything about it confusing, but then again I couldn’t make sense of the ikea chart for about 5 minutes.

    Each object (it’s supposed to be like a tower of hanoi, a series of ever-smaller objects stacked on top of larger ones, and each object’s top surface area corresponding to…well, surface area) is discrete. Wendy’s doesn’t have 150k+ stores. It makes sense if you only want to get relative information (Subway has a few fewer stores than McDonalds, Blockbuster stores tend to be a lot bigger individually than 7-11s) but for real numbers it does the proverbial suck and blow.

  9. That chart is an utter disaster. Each data point is represented by a 3D object with apparent volume proportional to number of stores × total area² which is both meaningless and misleading: for example, the McDonalds bar looks bigger in volume than the Walmart bar because its thickness more than makes up for its lack of length.

    Also the mere stacking of the bars obscures any relationship that there may be between the two variables. Would a scatter plot be too much to ask for?

  10. #9, I believe the chart shows that Wal-Mart’s stores total 18,810 acres, or 819 million square feet.

    I believe the rest of your confusion is cleared up by SidB in comment 10.

    And yes, it’s a pretty bad infographic.

  11. Ok, I can see how I was confused by the stacked data.

    But I will still maintain that the mark that indicates Central Park at 850 acres doesn’t make any sense, regardless if you treat the “horizontal” axis as linear or areal.

    I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that thought of Tufte when I saw this.

  12. When counting the area controlled by Wal-Mart, you shouldn’t forget their 130 distribution centers of over one million square feet each.

    Another fun fact: Wal-Mart’s total 2006 revenue of $348 billion USD would put it at 23rd on the list of countries by GDP, just ahead of Saudi Arabia. Not bad for a centrally planned economy.

Comments are closed.