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Wal-Mart eyes smaller stores to boost US sales

Retail giant also considering acquisitions to add to growth

Gulf News

New York: Wal-Mart Stores, the world's largest retailer, will ramp up development of smaller stores as it looks to jump-start sales in the United States.

The retailer plans to add "hundreds" of smaller-format stores over the next three years, US chief Bill Simon said at an investor conference in New York.

Wal-Mart is considering acquisitions that could add to that growth, Simon said, declining to name specific targets.

The chief executive officer Mike Duke is seeking to spur growth in the United States as comparable-store sales at Wal-Mart's namesake locations have fallen for seven straight quarters.

The retailer had said it planned to open 30 to 40 smaller units this year in rural and urban areas and that there were "thousands" of potential sites in the United States.

"The recent tepid US sales growth increases the urgency to explore new store formats," said Tim Hoyle, director of research at Haverford Investments. "But I remain sceptical that they could develop enough real estate in the near-term to move the needle."

Hoyle is based in Philadelphia and helps oversee $6 billion (Dh22 billion) in assets, including Wal-Mart shares.

Express expansion

In Arkansas, Wal-Mart will start building its first three Express stores, a format less than a tenth the size of an average supercentre, according to building permits obtained by Bloomberg News. The first urban Express store will open this summer on Chicago's South Side.

Wal-Mart spokesman Steve Restivo confirmed the Arkansas store openings in an email. He didn't respond to emailed questions about stores in Chicago.

The new stores will include mid-sized Neighbourhood Market locations of 30,000 to 60,000 square feet, and the rest will be smaller. Simon said yesterday that the Neighbourhood Market format will be renamed "Walmart Market."

The company also will introduce more stores on university campuses, he said.