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Wal-Mart Plans Bigger Expansion for 2003

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said on Tuesday it plans to add about 8 percent more selling space in the coming fiscal year, continuing its aggressive growth despite a slumping economy, Reuters reports. The world's largest retailer said it plans to about 48 million square feet of new retail area.

Domestically, the company said its Wal-Mart division plans to open about 45 to 55 new discount stores and 200 to 210 new Supercenters -- which include grocery stores -- in the fiscal year starting Feb. 1, 2003.

Relocations or expansions of existing discount stores would account for about 140 of the Supercenter openings, while the rest would be built in new locations, the company said. About 85 to 90 percent of the stores are expected to be opened by the end of next year's third quarter -- in time for the holiday sales season.

David Scott, portfolio manager for the $50 million Chase Growth Fund, told Reuters the Supercenter expansion could mean more pain for competing supermarkets.

"The latest sector that's been affected (by Wal-Mart's growth) has been grocery stores, and that's probably going to continue to be the case," said Scott, who holds Wal-Mart shares. "I expect them to continue to take market share."

Wal-Mart, which is hosting a meeting with analysts on Tuesday, said it will open
20 to 25 smaller Neighborhood Market stores and 40 to 45 warehouse-format
Sam's Club stores domestically. But about two-thirds of the Sam's Club openings will be relocations or expansions of existing stores.

Last year, Wal-Mart announced plans to open 50 discount stores, 180 to 185 Supercenters, 20 Neighborhood Market units and 50 to 55 Sam's Clubs.

The company also said it will build three new regional general merchandise distribution centers and six new food distribution centers during the next fiscal year, adding almost 8.7 million square feet of distribution space.

It said Wal-Mart International plans to open 120 to 130 units in existing markets, including two restaurant formats, specialty apparel retail stores and supermarkets in Mexico.
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