FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (FNS) -- Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark., said here it is committed to the food industry through both supercenters and smaller "neighborhood" stores.
H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart president and chief executive officer, told shareholders at the company's annual meeting here earlier this month that Wal-Mart plans to reinforce that commitment by building 20 grocery distribution centers in the next three years.
He also said Wal-Mart may build even more than the 165 supercenters slated for this year. Last year, 157 supercenters opened.
And Wal-Mart's smaller-format Neighborhood Markets, of which there are currently seven, will be "rolled out" when "we get it exactly right," David Glass, chairman of the executive committee, said. The company is planning to open five to 10 Neighborhood Markets this year. "Neighborhood Markets will be very important to us as a complement to supercenters," Glass said.
Tom Coughlin, president and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores division, said that while "we feel very good about Neighborhood Markets, we need to know about their acceptance beyond northwest Arkansas." He said upcoming units in Houston and Dallas "will be a great challenge for us."
Shareholders were told of a brisk construction program within the Sam's Club division this year, involving 24 openings and 125 remodelings. Last year, the division opened 12 stores.
Tom Grimm, Sam's Club president and CEO, said the division is increasing the number of gas stations it operates from its current total of 39 to 100 or more by the end of the year. John Menzer, president and CEO. Wal-Mart International, told the meeting that overseas sales will exceed $32 billion this year, compared with $22 billion last year. About 100 new units are scheduled to open overseas this year, including the first supercenter in the United Kingdom, scheduled to open within the next four weeks.
Menzer also said Wal-Mart will "aggressively move forward" in China in the next few years. He said the firm is "very happy" with its eight existing units in China, including the two that opened in May, one of them a completely underground supercenter.
Menzer said the new stores were showing "phenomenal results. We are becoming the retailer of choice in China."