Make Room For More Wal-Marts

Chances are that there's going to be a new Wal-Mart built near you and the one that's already there will get a facelift.

Wal-Mart says it plans to open more than 1,500 stores in the U.S. in the coming years. That's on top of the nearly 3,200 it already operates.

John Menzer, the vice chairman of the world's largest retailer, says it's on track to meet a target of up to 370 new U.S. store openings this year. There were 341 last year.

That number includes Wal-Mart discount stores, Supercenters with full grocery sections, smaller Neighborhood Markets and Sam's Club membership warehouses. Supercenters are the largest single group with nearly two-thousand locations in the U.S. and are the focus of future growth plans.

Menzer did not specify a timeline for the new stores. He also did not refer to zoning and permit fights that have erupted in some places where Wal-Mart wants to expand, including big markets such as California where the company has fewer locations than in its traditional bases in the South and Midwest.

"We are really focused on opening new stores right now. We see so many opportunities to open new stores that that's where our capital is going first," Menzer said during a Web cast from a financial conference hosted by Citigroup in Miami.

Wal-Mart opened 69 new stores and Sam's Clubs in January, a company record for one month, it announced last week.

Most of the Supercenters are to be remodeled over the next 18 months to make them more inviting, adding touches such as faux wood floors, wider aisles and digital television display walls.
  • Melissa McNamara

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