Watch out for any Walmart/McDonald's alliance
As a farm boy it still doesn’t take much to impress me. I grew up near an eastern Ontario community of about 1,200 people — Chesterville. And when I moved West for a job in the early 70s, I landed in Cranbrook, B.C. which at the time had a population of 7,000 or 8,000 people and I wondered how I would ever navigate around this big “city”.
Today, I live in Calgary — a city of 1 million people, and in the city I try to avoid driving much further than 10 minutes from my home. That’s about the same amount of time it took us to get from the family farm to Fulton’s Grocery Store, or the Co-op feed store, or the Beamish (dry goods) Store in Chesterville when I was a kid…so not much has changed. Those three stores had pretty well everything a person needed in life.
The other day I was commenting about big business taking over big business and I came across a few numbers, which impressed me.
In NW Calgary I am about 10 to 15 minutes away from two busy Walmart stores, including a Walmart Supercentre, four Safeway stores, a Costco, a Superstore (Loblaws) and four McDonald’s Restaurants. There is no shortage of places to spend my food dollar and every other dollar I have.
Certainly in the last few years, I have heard many speakers talk about how it’s the consumer and the retailer who call the shots in agriculture these days. Well, forget the consumer, they’ll buy anything if the price is right, but here are a few facts I discovered about the size of the food business (and I didn't make these numbers up).
Walmart – founded in 1962, owned by the Walton family. The company has nearly 9,000 stores around the world, operates in 15 countries, has 55 different store or company names. It has an annual revue of $421 billion and get this…Walmart has 2.1 million employees. I didn’t know that.
Costco — another big player in the food industry. Costco was founded in 1983 in Kirkland, Washington (hence the Kirkland brand name on a lot of their products). Costco has 592 stores in the U.S., Canada, UK, Japan, Mexico, Australia, Taiwan, Korea and Puerto Rico. Costco has revenue of $88 billion and about 150,000 employees.
Loblaws – good old Canadian company founded in 1919 — we all know and love Galen Weston who does a great job of promoting President’s Choice foods. Loblaws has more than 1,000 corporate and franchise supermarkets across Canada. Serves 14 million shoppers weekly, The company almost went broke in the 1970s, but then reinvented itself and now has revenues of about $35 billion annually. It has 136,000 employees.
Safeway – established in Idaho in 1915. It has 1,725 stores in North America. Has revenue of $41 billion and employs about 180,000 people.
McDonalds – founded in 1940 by Richard and Maurice McDonald, San Bernardino, California. The company has 33,000 restaurants world wide, and 400,000 employees — (although one information source says it is closer to 1.9 million employees if you include all franchises). McDonald’s has total revenues of about $24 billion annually.
Cargill – established in 1865 in Minnesota, still owned by the Cargill family. It isn’t in the food retail business, but is big in many aspects of the agriculture industry. It operates in 66 countries, has annual revenues of about $120 billion and employs 142,000 people.
Grainews – owned by Glacier Media, based in Vancouver, established in 1988 (Glacier not Grainews). The company owns seven daily newspapers, more than 60 weekly newspapers across Western Canada and a large family of trade publications including Grainews. Total company revenue is about $250 million annually and it has 2,000 employees including one very, very hard working field editor in Alberta.
So there you have a quick snapshot of the corporate leaders in food retail and I had to throw in the ag information industry, too.
So which group of employees is really bringing home the bacon for their employers? Cargill leads this pack. Each Cargill employee generates about $845,000 in revenue for the company, Costco workers are in second place at $586,000 worth of revenue per employee. The rest of the companies are all in the $150,000 to $250,000 revenue range per employee, except for McDonalds which trailed with only $60,000 worth of revenue generated by each employee.
The dedicated Grainews/Glacier employees aren’t generating as much revenue per person for their employer as some companies, but we are loveable, and let’s face it…that is priceless.
(The other thing I noted in my extensive research — the Walmart workforce, (2.1 million), is just slightly smaller than the Chinese army (2.3 million). However, if Walmart and the total McDonald’s franchise workforce formed an alliance and were armed and mobilized, it would be larger than the U.S. military which has the largest single workforce in the world of 3.2 million people. Based on my figures Walmart and McDonalds could overtake the world. And Grainews will be there to provide coverage.)
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at email@example.com
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