Wal-Mart to Close Two German Stores

BERLIN - Wal-Mart today said it plans to close two stores in Germany, the first since it entered Europe' biggest consumer market five years ago, The Associated Press reports.

A store in Ingolstadt will be shut this year and two stores in Wilhelmshaven will be merged into one. Wal-Mart currently has 95 stores in Germany.

The company does not release earnings figures for its German operations, but analysts say they have been losing money from the start in a stubbornly sluggish retail market. Some note that brand-conscious German consumers have been slow to warm to Wal-Mart's bargain-basement approach, and German chains have responded to the U.S. company's price wars with deep discounts of their own.

Kay Hafner, head of Wal-Mart Germany, told the AP that Wal-Mart remains committed to its only foothold on the European continent.

Last month, Wal-Mart opened a new store in Bergkamen, a city on the edge of western Germany's populous Ruhr Valley region. A store in Gross-Gerau will move to a new location in the town in August, and a second store is to open in Berlin next year.

"The new openings underscore our long-term commitment to the German market and show that we want to grow in the future," Hafner said in a statement.

Wal-Mart arrived in Germany in 1997 when it acquired the Wertkauf chain.
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