Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the behemoth of suburban retail stores, has ended its growth experiment to open smaller versions of its large superstore concept in rural and suburban infill locations. The retailer will close all 102 of its Walmart Express outlets, the smaller of its two small format stores, which it launched in 2011 as a pilot program with much fanfare.
Wal-Mart’s decision to abandon its smallest store concept follows an internal review of its 11,600-store portfolio that began last October. The review took into account a number of factors, including financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans. Wal-Mart designed the 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot prototype for rural communities, putting it in competition with dollar stores such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General and small format grocers like Sav-a-Lot.
The larger small format store will continue to be a part of Wal-Mart’s future plans. That version, known as the Neighborhood Market, averages 38,000-40,000 square feet and targets infill and urban areas. The idea was to follow younger shoppers as they gravitated to living in downtowns rich with restaurants and other amenities but sometimes lacking the amenities that could be provided by the Wal-Mart smaller footprint stores.
Wal-Mart intends to open 50-60 Supercenters and 85-95 Neighborhood Markets in the United States in 2016.