Wal-Mart Superstores enters food business

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<B>By LAUREY LUMMUS</B> <FONT SIZE=-1><I>Staff Reporter</I></FONT>

The Edward Jones Co., a Wall Street investment firm, predicts the Wal-Martchain, which is already dominating the discount department store arena, ispoised to take on rivals for its grocery business as well.

The Edward Jones Industry Report on retail says "Given the expected growthfor Wal-Mart and the company’s execution, we expect Wal-Mart to emerge asthe largest seller of groceries sometime early in the next century."

Wal-Mart has recently opened two of the supercenters in the Springs area,and according to a Wal-Mart spokeperson, more will be added as the city increasesand Wal-Mart identifies more need. The company has already discussed thepossibility of building another supercenter in the southern area of the Springs.

The supercenters are almost identical in size and format throughout the nation,which will soon become nations, as Wal-Mart talks of putting supercentersin Mexico continue. The giant buildings house a grocery store, retail discountstore, automotive repair center and an allowance for an extra number of spacesto be rented out by the likes of video and hair care shops, McDonald’s andone-hour photo shops. This is truly one-stop shopping, contained within massivestructures measuring 182,000 square feet.

Keith Morris, a Wal-Mart public relations representative, reported groceryproducts are its most pressing concern at this time.

"The most innovative thing we can do for our customers is to offer a fullrange of groceries along with the general merchandise," Morris said.

Gary Wright, president of G.A. Wright, a Denver-based retail consultant,states the growth of superstores conflicts with the needs of older America,rapidly becoming the largest group in the United States.

"Although, supercenters will succeed in areas with a significant population,such as Colorado Springs, the older shopper is less inclined to do the extensiveamount of traveling that is required when entering a supercenter," said Wright.

Wright believes well-located grocery stores that have expanded to includea butcher shop, a florist, and deli are well-equipped to compete withsupercenters.

Wal-Mart’s expansion plans are impressive to say the least. Within the pastyear, the chain plans to open an additional 110 supercenters in the UnitedStates, compared with 75 non-supercenter stores.

Since the first supercenter was erected in 1988, 280 of the retail giantshave been placed strategically across the country, but not without much protest.Groups in the New England states banded together to keep out the discountretailer.