Wal-Mart boosts worldwide presence with 165 new stores

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The Independent Online

Wal-Mart is to open up to 165 stores outside the US next year in a move by the world's largest retailer to boost its presence dramatically in Asia and Europe.

Wal-Mart is to open up to 165 stores outside the US next year in a move by the world's largest retailer to boost its presence dramatically in Asia and Europe.

Britain, where Wal-Mart owns Asda, is likely to be one of the focuses of the expansion plan. The detail of the store-opening breakdown is expected to be announced next month.

Wal-Mart will also open 240 to 250 supercentres in the US, with relocation or expansion of existing stores accounting for about 160 of these.

The move comes as Wal-Mart faces mounting questions from analysts about how it is going to find new sources of growth. Critics have questioned whether its plans to shift some of its focus to opening stores in city centres would produce as much profit as its traditional out-of-town centres because of the higher overheads.

At the same time, the company has encountered opposition from local communities, especially in California, where its attempts to open supercentres are being fought by local retailers.

Since Wal-Mart bought Asda in June 1999 the supermarket chain has increased its outlets from 223 to 267 in the UK. In many cases, such as its recent expansion in Poole, Dorset, Wal-Mart has accompanied building an Asda store with an agreement to construct health centres and housing aimed at people on low incomes.

Wal-Mart also announcedyesterday that it would add about 45 discount stores in the US next year. Lee Scott, the chief executive of Wal-Mart, said: "The planned square footage growth for the coming year represents approximately 55 million sq ft of new retail space, more than an 8 per cent increase over the 655 million sq ft we estimate we will have at the end of fiscal year 2005."

Earlier this week, Wal-Mart reported muted growth in September compared with the same time last year. Sales in stores opened a year rose 2.3 per cent. The Arkansas-based company had predicted a rise of up to 4 per cent.

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