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Walmart is recruiting a new team of managers and buyers that will focus exclusively on its smaller-format Neighborhood Markets, according to a published report.
With just over 150 locations, Neighborhood Markets currently represent only a fraction of Walmart’s total U.S. sales. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is also recruiting managers to develop staff training and store-planning and performance systems that will “meet the unique needs of all small formats,” the report, which appeared in the Financial Times, noted.
At roughly 42,000 square feet, Neighborhood Markets are less than a quarter of the size of Walmart’s more than 2,700 Supercenters. The smaller stores were previously served by buyers and merchandisers primarily focused on the company’s large stores. As a result, Neighborhood Markets have generally displayed grocery products in largely the same way as the larger hypermarket-style stores, rather than seeking approaches that might be more profitable or better suited to the smaller format, the newspaper reported.
Walmart opened its first Neighborhood Market in 1998, using the format for “fill-in” locations between its Supercenters. This year, in a sign of its growing interest in smaller formats, the chain converted two existing stores in Phoenix and Houston to serve local Hispanic consumers under the Supermercado de Walmart banner. Walmart also opened four 12,000-square-foot Marketside stores in Phoenix last year.
The interest in smaller stores comes as the retailer is seeking to improve the profitability of its existing store network through an extensive remodeling program. Smaller stores could help Walmart penetrate markets such as Chicago, New York and California, where political opposition and land constraints make it harder to open Supercenters, the Financial Times reported.