Geocoding in ArcGIS: The Spread of Target and Walmart

Catherine Riihimaki, Drew University


Students geocode the locations of Walmart and Target stores across the US, create a map for each company, and interpret the distribution of stores using ArcMaps graphing functions.


Type and level of course
The course is an upper-level introduction to GIS aimed at environmental studies students and other students from across campus.

Geoscience background assumed in this assignment

GIS/remote sensing skills/background assumed in this assignment
Add shapefiles, understand attribute tables, and change symbology. Export JPEG maps.

Software required for this assignment/activity:
ArcView 9.3

Time required for students to complete the assignment:
6 hours, including followup assignment


GIS/remote sensing techniques students learn in this assignment
Students download data tables of store addresses.
Students geocode store locations using ArcGIS Online resources.
Students perform a spatial join to determine the number of stores in each state.
Students use the ArcMap graphing tools to compare state attributes with the number of stores in each state.

Other content/concepts goals for this activity
Students analyze the distribution of big box stores.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Students formulate and test a hypothesis of store distribution. They then critically evaluate the distribution to present a "consultant" report of the distribution for either an environmental or business organization.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students geocode the locations of the "big box stores" Walmart and Target from addresses that they download. They then compare the spatial distribution of stores at the state level by performing a spatial join with a shapefile of US states, and comparing the distribution of stores with the population of each state. Finally, they write a report of their results as a recommendation for future action, either by an environmental group or a development group.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students turn in files, jpeg maps, and a written report. They are assessed by a variety of criteria including technical (did they geocode the addresses correctly, did they correctly perform a spatial join), design (are their maps "professional"), and analysis (did they analyze the data correctly).
More information about assessment tools and techniques.

URLs and References

Store locations can be downloaded from:
State files can be downloaded from

Animations of the spread of Walmart and Target stores are located at

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Geocoding in ArcGIS: The Spread of Target and Walmart --Discussion  

This post was edited by Kit Pavlekovsky on Jul, 2012
THanks for the Walmart data! I made a movie with the data using ArcGlobe 9.3 and windows movie maker, you may like it, please check it out and share for the upcoming shopping season lol.

Furthermore, This book I am reading, "The Wal-Mart Effect" claims that Walmart and it suppliers were responsible for 10% of all goods imported from CHina to USA during 2006. Do any of you know more about this? more recent stats perhaps?

Have any in your department studied the yearly fossil fuel input required into getting walmart goods into USA from abroad? I can see how this would be a difficult task since everything from metallurgical coal mined in BC, Canada that is used to produce the steel for the new factories in China could possibly count as inputs into that math. Of course, if you just focused on the shipping related fossil fuel use perhaps that would be more reasonable?

anyway, thanks again for compiling the Walmart data!!
keep up the good work,

andy c.


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