News & Analysis
In this September 9, 2010 piece - Walmart Plans to Close Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' Stores, Dump Format By Year-End or Early 2011 - we reported that Walmart Stores, Inc. will end its small-format 'marketside by Walmart' format and close the four stores in Arizona, either by the end of this year or in early 2011, and discussed and offered analysis on the issue. The stores and format were called 'marketside' until the retailer added "by Walmart' to the name in 2009.
Since we reported and published the piece, we've learned about some additional thinking and discussion at Walmart, involving the four 'marketside by Walmart' stores, which range in size from a little over 15,000 square-feet to about 18,000 square-feet.
Although the 'marketside' fresh food and grocery format as we know it now is going away, Walmart is considering not closing some or all of the four stores, and instead converting them to one or more different formats.
Here's what we know right now:
Even though the 'marketside by Walmart' stores are smaller than Walmart's 20,000 square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' prototype store in Rogers, Arkansas [See our July 6, 2010 story - July 6, 2010: Walmart Looking for Store Sites in Northern California For 20,000 Sq-Ft Neighborhood Market by Walmart Prototype Store], Walmart Stores' is considering converting some or all four of the 'marketside' stores, which are in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, Arizona, into a slightly scaled-down version of the 20,000 square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' format and store. Based on what we know today, this is the most likely option of the three we're laying out in this piece.
Second, Walmart could replace one or more of the 'marketside by Walmart' units with a smaller version (a true bodega) of its 'Supermercado de Walmart' Latino format stores.
Walmart has a couple of these stores in Metro Phoenix. However, the stores are in renovated Walmart Neighborhood Market stores that, like this one in Phoenix, are 39,000-42,000 square-feet. All four of the 'marketside by Walmart' stores are less than half that size, which is why it would have to be a smaller, hybrid version the the current 'Supermercado de Walmart' units open and operating in Arizona.
Walmart has been working on such a smaller format though. It also operates such stores - in the 15,000 square-foot range, and even smaller - in Mexico. So it wouldn't be a stretch at all. The demographics, however, are only decent for a Hispanic format store in two of the four cities/neighborhoods where the 'marketside' stores are located. Therefore, it would only make sense to convert one, and maybe two, of the 'marketside by Walmart' stores into a Latino consumer-focused store, as described above.
Lastly, Walmart could put a new, "corner grocery store" (our term) type of format it's been working on into one or more of the four 'marketside by Walmart' stores in Arizona. Think of it as an "American" bodega. Walmart first started developing this format, both Latino and non-Latino consumer-focused versions, two years ago. Read our report: September 29, 2008: Special Report: Wal-Mart, Inc. Studying Second Small-Format Food and Grocery Store Concept; the 'Bodega' or Modern Version of the Corner Grocery Store.
What we know about this format is that it's more focused on basic groceries than Walmart's 'marketside' format is, less upscale and, although it offers some prepared foods, isn't fresh-prepared foods-focused like the 'marketside by Walmart' format is.
We don't know conclusively at this point in time what Walmart is going to do with the four Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' stores. But, based on our most recent information, our analysis is it's likely the retailer will retain at least two, and perhaps all four of the stores, converting the format. A key reason - but far from the only reason - for this is because Walmart Stores, Inc. has long-term leases on the four buildings the stores are housed in.
Further, it's our analysis, based on what we know today, the most-likely format to replace 'marketside' in one or all of the four Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' stores, is a slightly scaled-down, smaller version of the 20,000 square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' format.
For example, the 20,000 square-foot prototype store in Rogers, Arkansas includes a pharmacy and fairly good-sized in-store deli. These two departments could be reduced in size, along with shrinking the overall footprint of the 20,000 square-foot store a bit, and then dense up the core of the store, and the format as it is, with just the changes described above, could easily fit in the four 'marketside by Walmart' boxes (the stores.)
Walmart should announce the fate of the format and the four stores at its upcoming analysts meeting in October. We're further reporting the story, and will probably have something additional before then. Stay tuned.
Also, read our December 21, 2009 story: Wither Walmart's Small-Format 'marketside' Stores and Format? And our January 9, 2010 piece - Walmart's 'marketside': What's 'In-Store' for 2010? They offer a good, integrated road map to the present.