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Let the speculation begin about Walmart Market

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Walmart has rebranded the small-format food-and-drug combo store Neighborhood Market as Walmart Market.

(THE NEWS: Coming soon: More Walmart Market stores. For the full story, click here.)

Now the guessing game can begin about how many of the approximately 40,000-sq.-ft. stores the company ultimately might be able to open and the time frame in which the expansion could occur, given Walmart’s resources, available real estate and an army of assistant store managers who have undergone the retail equivalent of Navy Seal training by working in Walmart’s supercenters.

Bill Simon, president and CEO of the company’s U.S. stores division, made clear during an investor presentation on Thursday that the financial returns now are comparable to those of the company’s supercenters. That has encouraged the company to move faster with expanding the base of 155 domestic Walmart Market stores.

“There are 180 that have been approved through our real estate committee,” Simon said during a presentation at the William Blair & Company Growth Stock Conference. “We expect to have about 300 of them by 2013. The number for next year is approaching 100 that we’ll be able to put in.”

Simon referenced providing more details on the Walmart Market expansion in October, which is when the company holds its annual investor conference and reveals its capital expenditures budget for the coming year along with details around square footage expansion and stores openings by format type.

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