Walmart goes small for cities

Woman shopping at WalmartWalmart may not be easily confused with a local market or convenience store, but that's exactly what it's hoping to become, at least in urban locations and areas with limited space to build a super center.

Every few months it seems, there's a story about Walmart trying to expand into urban areas, but this time there seems to be more fuel behind the rumors. National Public Radio reports that Walmart's new President and CEO, Bill Simon, told investors last week at a Goldman Sachs retail conference that "we will have a healthy mix of super centers and small formats, including our grocery format, Neighborhood Market and smaller formats."

The retailer operates roughly 200 Neighborhood Markets that more closely resemble grocery stores than massive discount centers, and has been testing an even smaller format called Marketside. There are just four of these locations in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Tempe, Ariz. Analysts believe a new hybrid format will more closely resemble a convenience store size, similar to formats Walmart operates in Latin America.

Could Walmart be coming to a neighborhood near you? A company spokesman wouldn't comment on the plans and would only confirm that executives would, indeed, be meeting with analysts in October, when it will likely provide more details about its expansion plans.
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