Wal-Mart Plans to Accelerate Openings of Mid-Sized Stores

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world’s biggest retailer, plans to accelerate the opening of its mid- sized Walmart Market stores, said U.S. stores chief Bill Simon.

Wal-Mart will open 90 to 100 of the stores in the year ending in January, and have 300 by fiscal 2013, Simon said today at the William Blair & Co. Growth Stock Conference in Chicago. In May, the retailer said it would roll out as many as 40 this year.

Wal-Mart is expanding the format because its return on investment in those stores, which now number 185, is comparable to that of its larger supercenters, he said. Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke is looking for ways to spur growth as surging gasoline prices curb some customers’ shopping trips.

The Market stores are roughly the size of typical supermarkets at about 42,000 square feet. The company also has introduced smaller Walmart Express shops to appeal to customers who want to complete their shopping quickly. Simon said he is “pleased” with sales at the first two stores, which opened this month. The retailer is opening a third Express store today in North Carolina.

Simon reiterated that Wal-Mart expects to post positive comparable-store sales in the U.S. by the end of the year. Wal- Mart has posted eight straight quarters of sales declines at U.S. stores open at least a year. U.S. Walmart stores account for almost two-thirds of total revenue.

Last month, Wal-Mart forecast that the change in U.S. same- store sales in the second quarter ending July 29 would be between negative 1 percent and positive 1 percent.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, fell 59 cents to $52.32 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have declined 3 percent this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is little changed.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Boyle in New York at mboyle20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Julie Alnwick at jalnwick@bloomberg.net

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