By  on August 28, 2007

Signaling a desire to diversify beyond Supercenters, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is looking to hire an executive with merger and acquisition expertise to develop a "comprehensive multiformat strategy" that includes proposing new retail concepts.

The $345 billion Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer posted the job description on its Web site, but did not return a call seeking comment. The Financial Times first reported the posting.

Wal-Mart has not recently discussed acquiring or developing formats in the U.S., but the retailer is under pressure from Wall Street to improve sales at its flagship U.S. Supercenter business, which accounts for 65 percent of company revenues. In addition, one of Wal-Mart's major global competitors, U.K.-based Tesco plc, is opening small format, grocery-convenience stores in California starting this year.

Wal-Mart operates four formats in the U.S.: Supercenters, discount stores, Sam's Club wholesale clubs and Neighborhood Markets, which are smaller, hybrid grocery and drugstore units. It operates more than 20 formats worldwide, including specialty apparel stores and coffee shops.

The posting said the executive would seek to minimize "cannibalization" among existing formats, suggesting Wal-Mart remains concerned about the detrimental impact Supercenters have on stores' sales when built in close proximity. The company for years built giant stores — sometimes within a mile of each other — and downplayed the risk to sales. In 2006, however, Wal-Mart reversed course and said it would slow the pace of U.S. expansion to focus on improving profitability at existing stores.

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