Wal-Mart's Menzer Outlines U.S. Growth Plans

MIAMI -- In a presentation here on Tuesday, Wal-Mart vice chairman John Menzer outlined the retailer's plans to open more than 1,500 stores in the United States in the coming years. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. currently operates nearly 3,200 stores in the United States.

Menzer, who recently took over the helm of Wal-Mart's domestic stores division, said the company was on schedule to meet an announced target of between 335 and 370 new U.S. store openings this year, after opening 341 last year.

Those figures include traditional Wal-Mart discount stores, supercenters, smaller Neighborhood Markets, and Sam's Club membership warehouses. Supercenters are the largest single group, with 1,980 locations in the United States, and they remain the focus of future growth plans.

Menzer did not specify a timeline for the openings.

"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 Webcast from the financial conference, hosted by Citigroup.

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

Menzer said 1,800 of its existing supercenters would be remodeled over the next 18 months to make them more inviting for its customers, adding touches such as faux wood floors, wider aisles, and digital television display walls.

The remodeling program is part of a new strategy to interest consumers who are already in the store for basic items to buy more fashions, electronics, home furnishings, and fancier foods.

Wal-Mart also is experimenting with new formats for supercenters, to fit the large facilities into land-strapped urban neighborhoods. New styles will include multilevel stores and underground or above-store parking rather than a huge lot out front.
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