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Bloomberg reports that Walmart is about to start building its first three Express stores, in the Arkansas communities of Gentry, Prairie Grove and Gravette.

The story says that “the Express stores, concrete square boxes with metal roofs, will cost $1.2 million to build and sit on lots just under 5 acres, according to building permits filed in Gentry and Prairie Grove, which has a population of 4,380. The stores will have 75 parking spaces, a pharmacy and three or four checkout counters, said Jackie Baker, Prairie Grove’s building and planning director ... Sections for fresh produce, refrigerated foods and frozen items will go down one side and along the back of the Express store, Baker said in an interview. The store will have about a dozen aisles, according to Gentry city superintendent David McNair.

“It’s not clear from the planning materials how much of the product assortment will be groceries compared with general merchandise. Groceries accounted for 51 percent of Wal-Mart’s $258 billion in sales in the U.S. in fiscal 2010, according to company filings.”

Meanwhile, Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Walmart plans to build an Express store in the Windy City, “in the Chatham Market at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue on the South Side ... The world’s largest retailer will build out an existing 10,000-square-foot building immediately to the east of a Potbelly’s sandwich shop along 83rd Street.” It will be the first urban iteration of the Express small-store format to begin construction. the story suggests, though maybe not the first to open.

The story notes that Walmart CEO Mike Duke is looking for ways to improve the company’s US performance after a series of quarters in which same-store sales have been stagnant; Bill Simon, who runs the company’s US operations, has been quoted as saying that there “there are hundreds, if not thousands of opportunities in the U.S.” for stores smaller than its supercenters.
KC's View:
I read this, and all I can think about is all the empty commercial real estate space available around the country. Just the old Blockbuster locations alone could be an enormous opportunity. Or maybe they could take some old post offices off the government’s hands?

Done right, this could be a game changer for Walmart.

Oh, any by the way ... expect that these stores also will be delivery depots for people who want to order from the company’s website or maybe even some of its bigger stores.