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Talk of the bay

Continued huge growth predicted for Wal-Mart

By MARK ALBRIGHT
Published May 16, 2005


Wal-Mart watchers had a busy week.

The nation's largest retailer blamed weather, gas prices and its own merchandising mistakes for diminished earnings in the first quarter.

The company's stepped-up chorus of organized critics took credit. They also helped prod 51 members of Congress to write a letter asking the discount store giant to hand over pay records to determine if there are disparities between what the chain pays men and women as alleged in a pending class-action sexual discrimination lawsuit.

Wal-Mart officials confirmed the chain is considering opening its first stores in India.

Meanwhile, two retail experts updated their estimates of just how big Wal-Mart will be in five years if it keeps growing as fast as it has been.

The chain's $288-billion in revenues in 2004 - roughly equal to the combined sales of its five biggest competitors - would almost double to more than $500-billion by 2010.

That would be 12 percent of all U.S. retail sales, up from the current 8 percent, according to Retail Forward.

Wal-Mart by then would account for 3.59 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, or GDP, commonly known as "the U.S. economy," up from the current 1 percent, according to RDH Co., a Charlotte, N.C., economic research firm that specializes in retailing.

"It's possible that the Federal Trade Commission would begin looking into domestic market disruption (caused by Wal-Mart) near the end of this decade," economist Richard Hastings said.

[Last modified May 14, 2005, 00:55:02]


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