What Is Walmart? (What Is It Known For, How Is It Different, Type Of Store + More)

Shoppers worldwide have many choices when it comes to their daily purchases, but one chain has reigned supreme for decades: Walmart. Walmart has become a go-to for many consumers, especially in the United States, where most people live less than an hour away from a store.

But what is Walmart? How would one define this mega-retailer if they met someone who’d never been before? Look no further for the answers you need! I’ve researched the matter in-depth, so you don’t have to!

What Is Walmart?

Walmart is the second-largest retailer in the world (outside of China), an enormous international chain of discount-priced goods and services as of 2022. Walmart has over 10,500 stores and 2.2 million employees in 24 different countries. Items sold include groceries, general merchandise, auto, salon, and banking services, on-site restaurants, and more.

There’s so much to a Walmart store, so let’s delve deeper into what Walmart is known for, why type of store it is, what prices are like, and more!

What Is Walmart Known For?

The story of Walmart begins with Sam Walton in Arkansas in the 1960s. The entrepreneur opened his first Wal-Mart Discount City in 1962.

Further, the idea was always to sell goods at the lowest prices “to get higher-volume sales,” a mission and business plan which still guides the company today.

So, let’s look at some characteristics for which Walmart is uniquely known; some have gone so far as to change the cultural landscape in America.

The Walmart Supercenter

A Walmart Supercenter is an awe-inspiring sight, with many clocking in at over 180,000 square feet.

So, while Walmart has a variety of stores (to meet various needs) today, many find the Supercenter to be supremely symbolic of the brand.

It’s oversized, dwarfing most other brick-and-mortar retailers.

Also, Walmart Supercenters are a maze at times, making it difficult to find items; and it’s perfectly calibrated to encourage customers to buy more.

Lowest Prices

One of the key tenets of Walmart’s business strategy is known as the Walmart Everyday Low Price, or EDLP.

With that, this is Walmart’s guarantee to the customer that whatever they need will be at Walmart, and they’ll get it for less than at the competition.

Therefore, you can see that this is a formalized version of Sam Walton’s original strategy to move big volumes of merchandise by pricing it way below anyone else.

Vast Inventory

Aside from the sheer size, Walmart portrays the idea of combining an entire grocery store with what is, in effect, a department store.

Moreover, to be able to pick up not just the birthday cake and snacks, but the gifts, favors, decorations, and even an extra crockpot, all in one trip, is a game-changer.

As many know, that’s something Walmart is known for; its unbelievably vast inventory, the convenience of only having to make one trip for everything on your list.

What Type Of Store Is Walmart?

The Walmart company actually runs quite a few different kinds of stores, including:

  • Walmart Supercenters: known as hypermarkets, and they combine grocery stores with general merchandise/department-style stores
  • Walmart Discount stores: the original “discount store” concept, these sell merchandise but not groceries
  • Walmart Neighborhood Markets: the sister concept to Discount stores, these sell just groceries
  • Walmart Express: conceptually smaller than Discount stores, designed for easy in/easy out merchandise shopping
  • Sam’s Club: a whole other brand in its own right, Sam’s Club stores are massive warehouses for bulk purchases at low prices
  • Campus Convenience stores: something Walmart is testing, these smaller locations would be on college campuses
  • Walmart Fuel Stations: built in the parking lots of existing Supercenters, Walmart created a few to compete with gas stations

How Is Walmart Different?

There are a few key areas where Walmart differs from its competition and remains unique on the market.          

Brick And Mortar Locations

Amazon not only gained on Walmart in 2021 – the Seattle-based tech giant surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer (outside of China).

However, while Walmart has been making money moves into the online sphere, the brick-and-mortar locations keep them competitive.

So, as much as consumers love the convenience of online shopping, shopping as a five-senses-engaged experience isn’t going anywhere.

That said, only at Walmart can you do that in one building versus online shopping with Amazon.

Generous Return Policy

Another area where Walmart differentiated itself early (though many have copied at this point) is its generous return policy.

For example, you can return pretty much anything with a receipt and get your money back.

Still, you can return a lot of things without a receipt, too, and get your money back or get store credit.

Greeters

Finally, we have greeters, or what they symbolically stand for – the idea that everyone is welcome, and Walmart hopes they have an enjoyable shopping experience.

Implemented in the 1980s, the Greeter positions also serve as shoplifting deterrents.

However, Walmart announced that it was phasing out Greeters in favor of “customer hosts.”

Is Walmart Considered A Department Store?

Is Walmart Considered A Department Store?

Walmart is not a department store in the same manner as your Macy’s or your JCPenney, but it does share enough similarities to fall under the sub-category Discount Department store.

Further, other retailers who could share this designation include Target, Kmart, Burlington, Marshall’s, Gabe’s, Ollie’s, and even Nordstrom Rack.

Instead, Walmart is more commonly known as a big-box store, a category it shares with Target, Costco, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.

What’s Walmart Also Known As?

Walmart began life as “Wal-Mart”; in fact, it was not long ago that the company officially changed the name, dropping the hyphen.

That said, CEO Doug McMillion explained the 2018 revision, saying, “…customers will increasingly just think of and see one Walmart.”

Informally, many shoppers also call the stores Wally World. It’s just a silly, catchy name for the company, and it plays on the part that comes from founder Sam Walton’s last name.

What Can You Buy At Walmart?

Walmart is known for selling pretty much anything under the sun (and if it doesn’t have it in stores, you can likely find it online).

So, here is a list of the items a typical Walmart Supercenter carries:

  • A full range of groceries
  • Home goods, furniture, and appliances
  • Beauty, health, and hygiene products
  • Apparel for men, women, boys, girls, and babies
  • Electronics
  • Home improvement goods
  • Automobile accessories
  • Sporting and outdoor equipment
  • Toys
  • Arts and crafts supplies
  • Party supplies
  • Patio and garden
  • A full range of baby supplies
  • Pet supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Health and wellness

Additionally, many Supercenters offer in-store services like:

  • Auto servicing, oil changes, tires, etc.
  • Salons
  • Banking
  • Restaurants (Subway, McDonald’s)

Moreover, Neighborhood Markets lack the general merchandise aspect but still carry beauty, health, hygiene, and wellness items.

On the other hand, the original-style Walmart Discount stores carry the general merchandise, but not groceries, though it may offer a limited selection of foods.

Is Walmart Cheap Or Expensive?

Walmart prides itself on its low, low prices, so it’s definitely the place to go if you need to get a lot of bang for your buck.

So, the rise of major competition in the grocery and online shopping spheres (more on those further down) continues to keep Walmart’s prices way down.

For example, while German grocery chain Aldi underprices Walmart on quite a few items, it is usually only by pennies.

How Does Walmart Keep Prices Low?

Don’t worry; shopping Walmart’s low prices doesn’t mean you’re getting broken furniture or moldy fruit.

Instead, Walmart’s overall business model allows for super-cheap prices, and here are a few ways how:

  • Keeping operational costs low
  • Big bargaining power for wholesale goods
  • Volume-focused model (selling a lot of each type of good)

As you can see, each part of the model works in concert with the others. Like Aldi, Walmart has figured out that when it keeps its costs low, it can pass those savings onto the customer.

Who Are Walmart’s Biggest Competitors?

If Walmart sits atop a throne of sorts, its rivals are all plotting to unseat the king, which includes:

  • Amazon,
  • Kroger
  • Target
  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • Lowe’s
  • Home Depot

If you are looking to learn more, you can also see our posts on Walmart’s biggest competitors, Walmart statistics & market share, and Walmart’s target market.

Conclusion

In the 1980s, but especially the 90s, Walmart redefined the American shopping experience, giving consumers a one-stop-shop for everything under the sun.

So, by combining a grocery store with a discount department store, Walmart has raised the bar for its competition, forcing a battle of evolution and innovation in the retail sphere.

Photo of author

Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

Leave a Comment