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BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Rumors are circulating that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here might be mulling the launch of a smaller, convenience-type format in the United States that could conceivably counter Tesco's Fresh & Easy market entry planned for later this year.
So far Wal-Mart has declined to comment on speculation of plans for a new format.
Industry observers are pointing to the company's announcement that former Tesco executive David Wild has been named as s.v.p., new business development, at Wal-Mart’s U.S. division. Wild, who joined Wal-Mart in 2004, worked in various executive positions at Tesco, including supply chain director and chief executive of the company's Central European operations. In the early 1990s he was active in fresh food and nonfood, helping to expand the company's convenience store operations.
However, as early as 2003, analysts were predicting that Wal-Mart would look into alternative formats to continue its U.S. growth, and to counter its competitors.
Retail Forward's Sandy Skrovan, for one, told Progressive Grocer in 2003 that "there’s a strong likelihood that Wal-Mart will explore rolling out their own drug chain and/or dollar store chain, and will get more into the convenience/fueling station business." She reasoned that those formats would raise fewer red flags with local opposition in urban areas.
Meanwhile Tesco is set to launch its convenience-oriented supermarket, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, later this year. The stores will be located on the West Coast in the Greater Phoenix area, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Last month Wal-Mart unveiled a new concept for its Neighborhood Market chain, encompassing a new look and feel, new track lighting, a makeover in health and beauty, and an abundance of freshly baked breads and fresh produce.