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Wal-Mart Launches 'Express' Concept for Disaster Sites

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Continuing to seek the silver lining among the dark clouds of natural disasters this past season, Wal-Mart said yesterday it will open its first "Wal-Mart Express" store in Waveland, Miss. this weekend, to serve shoppers who live near the site of its damaged supercenter. Wal-Mart called the 57,000-square-foot concept a "prototype," implying that there are more to come.

The Wal-Mart Express, literally a store within a store, is a new retail concept that differs radically from the footprint of any Wal-Mart store. "The new prototype store will allow us to respond to this community's immediate needs," said Pam Kohn, the division's s.v.p. Wal-Mart plans to eventually return the Waveland site to a full-fledged Wal-Mart Supercenter in the future, she added.

The new concept store in Waveland will open its doors Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 a.m., as one of first businesses to officially "open" along Gulf Coast Hwy. 90 in Mississippi, Wal-Mart said. The site had been operating as what Wal-Mart called a "tent store." It will offer a merchandise mix solely focused on the unique needs of the stricken community as it continues to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The Wal-Mart Express can be entered through the store's original front entrance and is enclosed within the original 205,800-square-foot building by dust-proof, insulated walls. The merchandise mix focuses on essential items, in the quantities and sizes needed for this community as it continue to rebuild from the damage of the Storm. The assortment includes larger-sized containers of paint and cleaning solutions, expanded hardware and home improvement items, large household items and appliances, basic clothing, frozen meat and packaged food aisles, photo center, pharmacy, and cellular products and services.

Store manager Ray Cox said the merchandise mix and design is a reflection of Wal-Mart's "store of the community" philosophy, providing the products that reflect the needs of Waveland customers. "We are rebuilding our store as this community rebuilds," he said. "We will be able to change our product assortment as the needs of Waveland change. We look forward to the day when our building can return to a typical Wal-Mart store, reflecting the full recovery of our community."
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