Oct 16, 2019

The pockets of America where Walmart is king

Data: Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The cities and towns where Walmart gobbles up more than half of all grocery sales are concentrated in the South and the middle of the country, illustrating a broader division in U.S. retail.

Why it matters: Retail has become one of the forces driving American inequality. While some cities build glitzy, revamped main streets and get same-day shipping, others have few options beyond Walmart super-centers and dollar stores.

By the numbers:

  • Walmart owns 50% or more of grocery sales in 203 U.S. markets, per an analysis by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that opposes concentrated economic power.
  • In 38 of those markets, Walmart has 70% or more of the grocery sales.
  • And in some places, the retail giant has virtually wiped out all other competition. Walmart owns 95% of the market in Portales, New Mexico; 95% in Atchison, Kansas; and 90% in Guymon, Oklahoma.

The bottom line: No grocer in U.S. history has ever been so dominant.

Yes, but: As politicians and consumers alike raise concerns about the outsized economic power of big companies, Walmart keeps growing — largely under the radar.

"The political pressure just isn't there to investigate Walmart," says Sally Hubbard, a director at the Open Markets Institute and a former assistant attorney general in New York's antitrust bureau. "The places where Walmart has large grocery market share are not places where policy activists live."

Go deeper: Two Americas, divided by how we shop

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Why Amazon keeps spending big on grocery delivery

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Amazon is losing billions of dollars as it expands free, fast shipping. Still, the company keeps doubling down and debuting two-hour grocery delivery at zero cost to Prime members in new markets.

The big picture: The American food market is worth a whopping $700 billion, but that's not why Amazon is chasing it. Consumers shop for food more frequently than anything else, and Amazon is betting that getting people to visit its site whenever they need groceries will turn them into loyal, lucrative customers.

Go deeperArrowOct 30, 2019

The physical footprint of the digital world

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Smartphones are chock-full of apps that can hail anything from rides to meals to toiletries — and this digital revolution comes with a physical footprint that is changing the way cities look and function.

Why it matters: To support the new consumer lifestyle, companies are choking cities with cars, bikes and warehouses. The technology that makes it possible for urban dwellers to summon everything in an instant clearly comes with still-unknown costs.

Go deeperArrowNov 7, 2019

A crisis for retail jobs

Outside a Target in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A collision of forces — automation, e-commerce and stagnating wages — is squeezing retail jobs in the U.S.

Why it matters: With more than 15 million jobs, the retail industry is America's biggest employer. A hit to this sector would reverberate across the economy.