retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Financial Times reports this morning that Walmart has opened its first Marketside small store in Mesa, Arizona, a “soft opening” for the 15,000 square foot format that is designed to allow the retailer to enter neighborhoods and communities that until now have been inaccessible or even unfriendly to it. Marketside also is seen as a rejoinder to the expansion efforts of rival retailer Tesco, which has opened more that 70 similarly sized Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in California, Arizona and Nevada.

As noted by FT, Marketside does not carry the Walmart logo and has a broader national brand presence than Fresh & Easy, though it does carry a selection of private label items, fresh foods and prepared meals that is geared to convenience-oriented shoppers.

The Mesa store is the first of four slated to be opened in the Phoenix area, with additional openings targeted in Southern California.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Business Journal reports that Walmart has decided to close one of its Dallas Neighborhood Market stores, which it said has not been performing up to expectations for several years. The retailer said that it is opening a new supercenter three miles from where the Neighborhood Market has been operating, and the new unit makes the older store redundant.

KC's View:
There probably isn’t any sort of broader lesson to be drawn from the confluence of these two events, except that it seems likely that Walmart is going to be more aggressive and flexible than ever at creating formats that will be suitable for diverse circumstances. Not only will it be operating supercenters, discount stores, Neighborhood Markets and Marketside stores, but it probably is a fair guess that it has a couple of other formats in the planning stages.

At some level, as long as Walmart’s various formats are consistent with its message about value and values, it seems likely that we could be seeing a lot of interesting developments coming out of Bentonville.