Wal-Mart Plans to Accelerate Walmart Markets Openings

And third Walmart Express opens in N.C.; Simon "pleased" with sales

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, plans to accelerate the opening of its midsized Walmart Market stores, said U.S. stores chief Bill Simon, according to a Bloomberg report. Wal-Mart will open 90 to 100 of the stores in the year ending in January, and have 300 by fiscal 2013, Simon announced at the William Blair & Co. Growth Stock Conference in Chicago.

The stores are roughly the size of typical supermarkets at about 42,000 square feet.
Wal-Mart is expanding the format because its return on investment in those stores, which now [image-nocss] number 185, is comparable to that of its larger supercenters, he said. Chief executive officer Mike Duke is looking for ways to spur growth as surging gasoline prices curb some customers' shopping trips.

The company also has introduced smaller Walmart Express shops to appeal to customers who want to complete their shopping quickly. Simon added that he is "pleased" with sales at the first two stores, which opened this month in Arkansas. The retailer opened a third Express store yesterday in North Carolina.

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Simon reiterated that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart expects to post positive comparable-store sales in the United States by the end of the year. Wal-Mart has posted eight straight quarters of sales declines at U.S. stores open at least a year. U.S. Walmart stores account for almost two-thirds of total revenue.For more on Walmart Express, watch for the July issue of CSP magazine, which has a cover feature on the new small-format store.