NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Diffusion of Wal-Mart and Economies of Density

Thomas J. Holmes

NBER Working Paper No. 13783
Issued in February 2008
NBER Program(s):   PR   IO

The roll-out of Wal-Mart store openings followed a pattern that radiated from the center out with Wal-Mart maintaining high store density and a contiguous store network all along the way. This paper estimates the benefits of such a strategy to Wal-Mart, focusing on the savings in distribution costs afforded by a dense network of stores. The paper takes a revealed preference approach, inferring the magnitude of density economies by the extent of sales cannibalization from closely-packed stores that Wal-Mart is willing to sustain to achieve density economies. The model is dynamic with rich geographic detail on the locations of stores and distribution centers. Given the enormous number of possible combinations of store-opening sequences, it is difficult to directly solve Wal-Mart's problem, making conventional approaches infeasible. The moment inequality approach is used instead and it works well. The estimates show the benefits to Wal-Mart of high store density are substantial and likely extend significantly beyond savings in trucking costs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13783

Published: The Diffusion of Wal-Mart and Economies of Density Thomas J. Holmes† Article first published online: 14 JAN 2011 DOI: 10.3982/ECTA7699

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