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SARASOTA, Fla. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is eyeing the region of Southwest Florida for three new Supercenter sites, two enlarged stores and a new distribution center, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.
The move is part of Wal-Mart's ambitious plan to continue store growth by adding 200 to 210 Supercenters and 45 to 55 discount stores in the next fiscal year. About three-quarters of the new Supercenters will come from expanding existing discount stores.
Wal-Mart's growth plans have drawn mixed criticism from observers, the Herald-Tribune reports.
Susan Snyder, a professor of architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, told the newspaper it is too simplistic to blame suburban sprawl on big box retailers. She argues retailing has fundamentally changed with innovations such as scannable bar codes and improved distribution systems.
"Those advances made it cheaper to sell in volume," she said. "The end of main street was when the scale of retailing got bigger. People are nostalgic for the days of small shops downtown but if you made merchants do business that way it would cost the consumer more."
In Southwest Florida, boosters contend that the additional commercial growth only adds to the region's jobs and tax base, but some residents near the proposed expansion stores worry about traffic congestion and blight. One local town, Waterbury, has organized dozens of neighborhood residents in opposition to Wal-Mart's expansion plans for its Cattlemen Road store in Sarasota.