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    Wal-Mart to Consider New Convenience Format?

    Published reports speculate the company will look to alternative formats to continue growth and counter competitors.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. may be mulling the launch of a smaller, convenience-type format, according to published reports. Such a move could conceivably help Wal-Mart counter Tesco's market entry later this year, reported Progressive Grocer magazine, sister publication to CSNews.

    Industry observers are pointing to the announcement that former Tesco executive David Wild was named senior vice president of 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, the report stated. In the early 1990s, he was active in fresh foods and non-food, helping to expand the company's convenience store operations.

    So far, Wal-Mart has declined to comment on speculation of a new format.

    However, as early as 2003, analysts were predicting Wal-Mart would look into alternative formats to continue its U.S. growth and counter its competitors.

    One analyst, Retail Forward's Sandy Skrovan, 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, the publication reported.

    As reported by CSNews Online, 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 announced a new concept for its Neighborhood Market chain, encompassing a new look and feel, new track lighting, a makeover in health & beauty, and abundance of freshly baked breads and fresh produce.

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