Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Wal-Mart Marketside test feels economic hit

June 5, 2009

castrowrightNot too long ago, U.S. grocers were sprinting to be the first to get smaller stores up and running. Not any more.

Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Eduardo Castro-Wright said the world’s biggest retailer is taking its time testing its convenience store-sized Marketside grocery stores, due to the economy.

“We’re pleased with it, but at this point in time given the current condition in the marketplace … we are not accelerating that effort until we have better data to make a decision,” Castro-Wright told reporters after the retailer’s annual meeting.

 In October, Wal-Mart officially opened four Marketside stores in the Phoenix area. The stores cater to shoppers who are looking for ready-to-eat meals and fresh produce, and might not have time for a trip to a full-scale grocery store.

marketsideMarketside stores are roughly 15,000 square feet, while Wal-Mart’s supercenters average 187,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, Tesco – Britain’s largest retailer – has slashed expansion plans for its competing Fresh & Easy stores and the concept is undergoing an “evolution” as the company works to find its sweet spot with U.S. shoppers.

Fresh & Easy’s early plans called for 200 stores in the United States by February 2009. The chain now expects to open its 200th location by November 2010. Fresh & Easy is putting more focus on value and adding about 1,000 items to its small-format Fresh & Easy stores’ current 3,500-product assortment, which represents about 10 percent of what a typical U.S. supermarket carries.

 ”This isn’t about changing the concept of Fresh & Easy,” Tesco spokesman Jonathan Church said. “What we’ve got to do is fine-tune the model for the customer we have before us today.”

(Photo: Reuters\Jessica Rinaldi; Video\Lisa Baertlein)

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