Wal-Mart turns attention to neighborhood stores

New York City Wal-Mart Stores is focusing on its smaller-format Neighborhood Markets, as evidenced by the retailer’s recent recruiting efforts geared toward hiring a new team of managers and buyers devoted exclusively on the smaller supermarket-style stores.

According to a Sunday report in the Financial Times, Wal-Mart is strengthening the management of the Neighborhood Markets because the concept represents a potential avenue for future growth as the expansion of its huge Supercenters slows.

Wal-Mart is also recruiting managers to develop staff training and store planning and performance systems, according to the Times. The smaller stores were previously served by buyers and merchandisers focused primarily on the large stores. (Wal-Mart currently has more than 2,700 Supercenters.)

With just more than 150 locations, the average 42,000-sq.-ft. stores have generally displayed grocery products in much the same way as the larger hypermarket-style stores, rather than seeking approaches that might be more profitable or more suited to the smaller format.

Smaller stores could help Wal-Mart penetrate markets such as Chicago, New York and California, according to the report, where political opposition and land constraints make it harder to open Supercenters. The retailer will announce its capital expenditure plans for its next fiscal year at an analysts meeting later this week.