Report: Wal-Mart Begins Building Smaller 'Express' Stores

by Lance Turner  on Thursday, Mar. 10, 2011 2:04 pm  

Executives at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville tell an investor conference that it plans to open 30-40 smaller stores this year in rural and urban areas.

Executives with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville told attendees at an investor conference in New York that it plans to open 30-40 smaller stores this year in rural and urban areas, according to report by Bloomberg.

In all, the retailer, which has reported falling same-store sales at its U.S. discount stores, plans to add "hundreds" of smaller-format stores over the next three years, Wal-Mart's U.S. Chief Bill Simon said Thursday, according to the Bloomberg story.

The report also said Wal-Mart plans to building its first "Express" stores, which are less than one-tenth the size of its average supercenter, next week in Gentry in northwest Arkansas. Its first urban Express center is planned for Chicago's South Side, according to report Wednesday by Crain's Chicago Business.

According to Bloomberg:

Wal-Mart spokesman Steve Restivo confirmed the Arkansas store openings in an e-mail yesterday. He didn’t respond to e- mailed questions about stores in Chicago.

The new stores will include mid-sized Neighborhood Market locations of 30,000 to 60,000 square feet, and the rest will be smaller. Simon said today that the Neighborhood Market format will be renamed “Walmart Market.” The company also will introduce more stores on university campuses, he said.

In February, Wal-Mart posted its second consecutive year of declines in U.S. same-store sales. For its fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, Wal-Mart's U.S. same-store sales were down 1.8 percent, and the same indicator was down 2 percent the year before.

Thanks to the strength of its international sales and Sam's Club stores, however, Wal-Mart reported revenue of $421.8 billion for the year, up 3.4 percent from the previous year. And its net income was up 14.1 percent to $16.39 billion.  

But analysts have focused on domestic sales in stores open at least a year, which Wal-Mart itself projects will range from flat to negative 2 percent in the current quarter. Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke has said that "getting sales back into positive territory" was a top priority for Wal-Mart. Among Duke's strategies do so: an improvement of its store remodel program. 

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