Walmart settles on name for small-format stores

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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is rebranding its Walmart Express store format to Walmart Neighborhood Market.

That means the 21 Walmart Express stores now in business and others in development will become Neighborhood Markets. The change was announced earlier this month.

Walmart has 346 Neighborhood Markets, all of which have pharmacies and are typically 38,000 square feet. They offer fresh produce, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, and health and beauty aids. The Express stores, not all of which have pharmacies, run around 15,000 square feet and carry groceries and general merchandise.

“Express customers are relying on the stores for grocery fill-in trips, last-minute dinner shopping and prescription pick-ups. That’s the same as with the Neighborhood Markets,” said Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales.

Walmart introduced the Express format in 2011 as a test in three markets. Neighborhood Market stores debuted in the late 1990s as a way to shrink the footprint of the Supercenter, which typically encompasses 185,000 square feet, carries 1400,000 items and still comprises over 80% of Walmart’s store base.

Walmart executives have been pleased with the performance of the small-format stores, which can be opened in more densely populated neighborhoods and help the company compete with a re-energized dollar store segment following a merger of Family Dollar Stores Inc. with either of its suitors, Dollar Tree Stores Inc. or Dollar General Corp.

Same-store sales at Neighborhood Markets rose 5.6% in the second quarter year over year. Traffic gained 4.1%. By contrast, companywide same-store sales (excluding fuel) were flat.

“We really like the position of our smaller stores. We think it’s a really winning combination when you add fresh and gasoline and Rx and even frozen,” Charles Holley, Walmart’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call last month on second-quarter earnings.

Earlier this year, Walmart doubled the pace of the rollout of smaller stores, to between 270 and 300 for the fiscal year through January. The company expects to open 115 Supercenters in the period.

Walmart will continue to experiment with the smaller format. “We want to make shopping fast, easy and convenient for our customers,” Ales said.



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