Wal-Mart says hiring execs to evaluate store formats

NEW YORK Mon Aug 27, 2007 2:45pm EDT

Customers shop at a Wal-Mart in Chicago, September 27, 2006. Wal-Mart is considering acquisitions in its home market as it seeks to open smaller stores and limit its reliance on giant supercenters for growth, the Financial Times reported in its online edition. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Customers shop at a Wal-Mart in Chicago, September 27, 2006. Wal-Mart is considering acquisitions in its home market as it seeks to open smaller stores and limit its reliance on giant supercenters for growth, the Financial Times reported in its online edition.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is hiring middle-management level executives to help evaluate the type of stores that it operates ahead of the arrival of British grocery Tesco (TSCO.L) to the United States.

But the world's largest retailer said it would be "wrong to speculate" on what those job openings might mean for future M&A activity.

Earlier on Monday, the Financial Times reported the retailer was considering acquisitions in the United States, citing a Wal-Mart job posting for an executive to assess the "strategic implications of any possible M&A on our overall portfolio."

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said, "Two months ago we posted a number of middle-management level positions to evaluate our existing formats to achieve better customer relevance. It would be wrong to speculate how that might translate to future M&A activity."

Tesco is preparing to open its "Fresh & Easy" neighborhood grocery markets in the U.S. later this year, and many are waiting to see if Wal-Mart will introduce a new, smaller store concept to compete with the Tesco stores.

Tesco is seeking to woo U.S. shoppers with smaller convenience stores of around 10,000 square feet emphasizing ready-to-eat meals and fresh produce in areas that are underserved by supermarket and grocery store chains.

In the U.S., Wal-Mart currently operates its namesake discount stores that average 107,000 square feet; its "Supercenters" that average 187,000 square feet and combine general merchandise with groceries; and its smaller "Neighborhood Markets" that average 42,000 square feet and sell groceries, pharmaceuticals and general merchandise.

It also operates its Sam's Club warehouse division.

On Wal-Mart's Web site is a job posting from July 26 for a "Senior Director Multi-Format Strategy."

The Web site says the director is expected to "develop a comprehensive Multi-Format growth strategy for WM (Wal-Mart) and to propose the development of new formats to complement our current format portfolio and to address new markets' opportunities by meeting the different customers' needs."

It also says that position would "assess the strategic implications of any possible M&A on our overall portfolio."

There is another posting from July 19 for a "Senior Director, New Format Design."

Once the strategy team has identified business opportunities for new store formats development, "this position will take responsibility for the development of one specific format," the listing states.

Wal-Mart shares rose 8 cents to $43.82 in early afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading.

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