We're trying to plug a few gaps in our electronic dictionary, and one editor has suggested that we make sure that Walmart is on the list of objectionable words to be flagged, because the Associated Press Stylebook specifies Wal-Mart.
I pointed out that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the listing in the stylebook, is the company’s corporate name. But its online name is Walmart.com, and Walmart is now how it names individual stores.
That, of course, would mean making judgments in context rather than relying reflexively on AP.
Another editor responded, quoting this exchange from the stylebook's online question-and-answer feature:
Q. Wal-Mart or Walmart? Used to be the corporation was Wal-Mart and individual stores are Walmarts. But online entry only has Wal-Mart. from Santa Fe, N.M. on Feb 08, 2012
A. AP now uses Wal-Mart for stores and corporate references. The compound spelling proved difficult to apply in news contexts.
I gather that the worthies at AP do not think that I am able to distinguish between a corporation or one of its buildings. Despite their solicitude, I think I could contrive to manage.
Update: Responding to Jonathon Owen's thoughtful comment below, I suggest that if AP want to use a single word, it should prefer Walmart, the word people see when they go to the stores or shop online, not the Wal-Mart they see when they read a corporate report.