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Wal-Mart Offers Little Guidance on Small-Format Stores

Wal-Mart left investors wanting more regarding its move into urban areas and building smaller stores.

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Wal-Mart

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is keeping tight-lipped about its smaller-store format.

Investors anxiously awaited news regarding urban development from Bill Simon, the new head of Wal-Mart U.S., during today's annual meeting. But Simon provided few tactile answers.

What he did say is Wal-Mart will operate with three store formats: supercenters, medium size and small format. New supercenters will be smaller than in the past at about 180,000 square feet, while medium-size stores will range from about 30,000 to 60,000 square feet.

Simon did not say exactly how big small-format locations will be or where they will be located, but did disclose that Wal-Mart will build about 30 to 40 of these locations in fiscal 2012. Reports surfaced last month that Wal-Mart is eyeing real estate under 20,000 square feet.

The discount giant will keep capital spending at about $7.5 billion to $8 billion, moving its focus from store remodels to new construction.

All together, Simon said the company will build between 185 and 205 U.S. stores beginning in February 2011, from about 153 this year.

Investors are still left wondering which urban markets Wal-Mart will tap next. Simon avoided questions regarding what he considers an urban market.

At a kick-off dinner last night, a choir sang "My Kind of Town," a tribute to Chicago, and ended with "New York, New York," no doubt a statement on where the future growth of U.S. business lies.

Rival

Target

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announced at its own annual meeting earlier in the month that it is looking to stores between 60,000 and 100,000 square feet. The typical Target store is between 125,000 and 180,000 square feet.

Target will open its first of these stores in Seattle, a block away from its Pike Place Market in 2012, and may also add these scaled-down stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore.

Shares of Wal-Mart remain muted in midday trading, as investors stay away from the stock, with volume also below average.

--Written by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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