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BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. yesterday unveiled a "unique" three-level, 205,700-square-foot unit in its fourth so-called "Jobs and Opportunity Zone" in Richmond, Calif. The store is inside a formerly vacant space at Richmond's Hilltop Mall.
In line with a "Store of the Community" retail strategy to focus on products more relevant to its shopping community, Wal-Mart said the new unit has an expanded selection of Hispanic and Asian foods, as well as a broadened selection of ethnic hair care products and urban sportswear styles.
"This is truly a store of the community," said Wal-Mart regional v.p. Henry Jordan, who leads operations for all Wal-Mart stores in California, "and we have taken great efforts to ensure that the Richmond Wal-Mart serves Richmond residents and neighbors, not only by offering great-quality merchandise and top brands at low prices, but also by providing an additional base for economic prosperity."
Unlike the layout of most Wal-Mart stores, the chain built the Richmond store on three floors, to better blend into the mall space. The first two floors are taken up with selling space, while the third floor houses the store's storage and receiving areas.
To accommodate the tri-level design, entrances offer shoppers access to parking areas from both the first and second floors, and also interior access into the mall from the first floor, Wal-Mart said. Its more than 28 cash registers are scattered about the store, and the escalators are designed to shuttle customers and shopping carts between the floors.
The Richmond unit also features new signage to help shoppers navigate through the expanded merchandise departments, along with new flooring and merchandise displays, the retailer said. Among other amenities, the store features an "open plan" pharmacy, in addition to wider aisles and more open common areas.
Earlier this year Wal-Mart selected 10 communities for its national Jobs and Opportunity Zone program. The retailer said it plans to invest in these local communities, which have otherwise been neglected by big businesses to some degree, by providing "good jobs" at newly opened stores, promoting small businesses throughout a specific community area, and educating local women-owned and minority businesses on working with Wal-Mart as a supplier.
As part of the program, Wal-Mart, in collaboration with local business organizations, will select up to five small businesses in the area per quarter to promote through advertisements in the store and in select local newspapers.
Wal-Mart also operates a multilevel store in Los Angeles.
In other Wal-Mart news, New York City's comptroller has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department to investigate whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. illegally spied on some of its shareholders.
The move followed allegations by a fired Wal-Mart security operative that the company had maintained wide-ranging surveillance operations against employees, critics, suppliers, consultants, and shareholders.
In a letter faxed to shareholders last week, Wal-Mart acknowledged that a January memo proposed a security review of activist shareholders but said that no action was taken and that there was no surveillance of investors, according to published reports.
An SEC spokesman told reporters he couldn't comment on whether the agency is investigating the matter.