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Walmart to Focus on Smaller Scale Stores, Convenience

Less is more for Walmart, which announced plans to accelerate its small store openings in the U.S. this year during the company’s annual shareholders meeting last week in Bentonville, Ark. The company said it plans to open 300 Walmart Express and Neighborhood Market stores–twice the amount initially planned.

Last month Walmart U.S. division CEO Bill Simon reported that 10 percent of the company’s Supercenters underperformed, while the 38,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market stores saw sales gains. In the first quarter, thanks to an increase in traffic, sales at Neighborhood Markets opened for at least one year climbed 5 percent.

The smaller Walmart Express, with 12,000-square-feet dedicated to fresh produce, meats and dairy and a pharmacy, is still in the evaluation stage with 20 locations, but Simon said the company intends to take it beyond the three initial pilot markets, North Carolina, Arkansas and Illinois.

“What we’re trying to do with Express right now is build a model that has the ability or project nationally,” Simon stated. “Our numbers are really big in every respect and we’re confident today that Neighborhood Markets will have a positive material impact on the company, that’s why we’re going through with that growth.”

Walmart also explained its newest and smallest concept called Walmart To Go. The 5,000-square-foot convenience stores will carry just 3,500 SKUs and offer the same prices at its neighboring 180,000-square-foot Supercenters, underscoring consumers’ need for quick and easy fill-in trips.

The company is also merging its online and in-store concepts with plans for a 15,000-square-foot Internet grocery store pickup center, scheduled to open later this year in Bentonville. Modeled after Asda in the United Kingdom, the unnamed, and yet-to-be-built, center will assemble orders made online and deliver them to cars in as many as 30 drive-up lanes.

“Customers will increasingly expect and require the best of both worlds. They want the excitement and the immediacy of shopping in a physical store and the freedom to shop whenever, however and wherever they want,” Walmart Stores Inc. president and CEO Doug McMillon said. “They want an experience that seamlessly adapts to their life. Walmart can bring together our stores with new digital commerce capabilities to help customers save money, save time, and have access to what they want and need. Walmart will exceed their expectations.”