Thursday, September 9, 2010

Walmart Plans to Close Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' Stores, Dump Format By Year-End or Early 2011

The History - and End - of Walmart's 'marketside by Walmart' Format and Stores in Five Acts

Act 1: The beginning

We've been watching, reporting on and analyzing Walmart Stores, Inc.'s 'marketside by Walmart' (originally called just 'marketside') four-store chain of small-format food and grocery stores since before the stores were opened in four cities in Metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona in October 2008, nearly two years ago. [Read a selection of our stories here. Click the 'newer posts' link at the bottom of the linked page for additional stories.]

Act 2: The beginning of the end

On December 21, 2009, we reported in this piece - Wither Walmart's Small-Format 'marketside' Stores and Format? - that Walmart Stores, Inc. had eliminated its Web Site for the four then 'marketside' (now named 'marketside by Walmart') small-format grocery and fresh foods markets and replaced it with a single Web Page introducing the company's new line of 'marketside' store brand food products, which are named after the fresh foods-focused format stores in Arizona.

As you can see in the piece linked above, we further suggested in the story that 'marketside by Walmart's' days were numbered.

Act 3: The curtain is closing

On January 9, we followed up our December 21, 2009 piece with a story titled: Walmart's 'marketside': What's 'In-Store' for 2010? At the end of the piece we offered three predictions about the 'marketside by Walmart' format and stores and its 'Marketside' brand, which Walmart is using on packaged fresh-prepared foods, pre-packaged fresh produce, fresh salsas, packaged breads and baked goods, along with using to brand some of its supercenter deli departments.

Below (in italics) is the prediction we made in the story regarding the 'marketside by Walmart' format and stores. It just happens to be prediction number one:

Walmart will keep the four Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' stores open in 2010. It will do so in part to serve the research and development function we mention above. Walmart won't open any new small-format 'marketside by Walmart' stores in 2010 though, either in Arizona or elsewhere in the U.S.

So far - nine months into 2010 - our prediction is correct. Walmart hasn't opened any additional 'marketside by walmart' stores this year, nor has it closed the four Metro Phoenix, Arizona stores...yet.

Act 4: Enter the replacement format

In early July of this year, we published this story - July 6, 2010: Walmart Looking for Store Sites in Northern California For 20,000 Sq-Ft Neighborhood Market by Walmart Prototype Store - in which we not only broke the news Walmart Stores, Inc. is looking for sights in Northern California for the 20,000 or so square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' format and grocery store its been experimenting with in Rogers, Arkansas, but also said, based on information we obtained, that Walmart would eventually be closing the four Arizona 'marketside by Walmart' stores, shelving the format, and replacing it (the format not that actual four stores) with a final version of the 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' prototype store.

Here's what we said (in italics) in the July 6 story:

Walmart Stores, Inc. currently has no plans to open any additional Marketside by Walmart stores - anywhere - including in Northern California. In fact, the retailer still holds leases on two sites in Southern California, one in San Diego and another in nearby Oceanside, but has no plans to open them as Marketside by Walmart stores. Construction at both locations, vacant retail buildings, has never been started, nor are there any plans to do so in the near future.

It's our analysis that Walmart is likely to replace the Marketside by Walmart format with some final version of the 20,000 square-foot Neighborhood Market by Walmart prototype, in terms of not opening any additional Marketside stores, and eventually close the four stores in Arizona, or replace one or more with the 20,000 square-foot prototype. It's important to note that the 20,000 square-foot prototype store in Rogers, Arkansas remains a work in progress in terms of not being cast in stone as the final format product, just like the name Neighborhood Market by Walmart might not end up being what it's called.

Act 5: The End is Near

Walmart's small-format 'marketside by walmart' has gone from withering in December 2008, to beginning to die on the vine in early January 2010, to starting to show signs of rot a little over two months ago, in July 2010, according to our chronology of reporting.

And now, the end is coming very soon for the four 'marketside by walmart' stores and the format.

Based on information we've obtained, Walmart Stores, Inc. plans to announce the closing of the four Metro Phoenix 'marketside by Walmart' stores - which are located in the cities of Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa and Tempe - before the end of December 2010, and no later than in the first quarter of 2011.

Yes, Walmart's small-format, Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market-like, fresh food and grocery-focused small-format experiment will soon come to an end.

Currently, based on our information (and as we said in our July 2010 story), the format replacement for 'marketside by walmart' is the 20,000 or so square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' prototype store in Rogers, Arkansas. Walmart continues to tweak the format, by the way.

Additionally, Walmart will continue to remodel and build its larger (average 40,000 square-foot) Neighborhood Market supermarkets, a few of which have had name changes to 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' on a selective basis thus far.

So there you have it. Walmart's four 'marketside by Walmart' stores, which all opened on October 4, 2008, will soon be history, along with the format. The history of Walmart's 'marketside by Walmart' in five acts, as reported on and analyzed by Fresh & Easy Buzz.

But, like the story of the mythical 'Phoenix' (appropriate since the four 'marketside by Walmart' stores happen to be in Metro Phoenix, Arizona) rising out of the ashes, not only has a brand name - 'marketside' - for fresh-prepared foods, pre-packaged produce, fresh salsas, and fresh-baked breads, rolls and a cookie, along with a brand name for store deli/prepared foods departments - been born out of the small-format stores, but so too has a new format - the 20,000 or so square-foot 'Neighborhood Market by Walmart' prototype, which is rising out of what will soon be the ashes of the 'marketside by Walmart' format and stores.


Damien said...

It would be better if Walmart could rebrand Neighborhood Market to Marketside - hybrid format of Fresh & Easy and Kroger Fresh Fare.

Hope Walmart is reading this.


Anonymous said...

I work at marketside in mesa and today we had a meeting and the announcement was made that as of october 21 there will no longer be a marketside by walmart. Hopefully fresh and easy will be hiring!