Wal-Mart is expanding again in Colorado Springs.
The world’s largest retailer, which has nine supercenters and two Sam’s Club warehouse stores in the Pikes Peak region, says it will build two Wal-Mart Market grocery stores — which are much smaller than a supercenter — in Colorado Springs that will open in mid-2012.
The stores are the first Wal-Mart Markets planned in Colorado, said Josh Phair, a company spokesman in Denver. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart officials said they planned to develop hundreds of the smaller stores around the country as a way to boost sales.
The Springs Wal-Mart Markets will be about 50,000 square feet each, making them close in size to a Safeway or King Soopers. One will be built as a free-standing store near the northwest corner of Academy Boulevard and Chelton Road; the other will open at the existing Murray Square shopping center, northeast of Platte Avenue and Murray Boulevard, in a space vacated by King Soopers in early 2006.
The stores will be roughly one-fourth the size of the area’s Wal-Mart supercenters, which sell electronics, small furniture, hardware and automotive items, garden supplies and other general merchandise to go with groceries.
The Wal-Mart Markets are basically traditional full-service groceries — offering produce, meat, deli items, canned goods and the like, as well as household items and pet supplies, Phair said. The stores might have wider selections of food items, such as meat and produce, than those found in supercenters, he added. The markets won’t sell fuel, but probably will include pharmacies.
Phair said Wal-Mart Markets are designed to provide selection, convenience and access for customers who want to stay in their neighborhood and don’t want to travel to a supercenter.
“What we’ve found is that our customers have responded to them in other areas, and really like the idea of access to a sort of full-component grocery store,” Phair said. “And whenever we can increase access and convenience for our customers, we take advantage of that.”
Construction is expected to begin later this year, and each store will employ about 100 full- and part-time workers, Phair said.
Wal-Mart will continue to look for other locations in the Springs, although Phair said the retailer has no plans to introduce another retail format it’s developing — 15,000-square-foot convenience stores.
City officials welcomed Wal-Mart’s expansion, especially at Academy and Chelton. The city has targeted South Academy as a distressed corridor that needs an infusion of new retailers, and the Wal-Mart Market should serve as catalyst to attract other stores to the area, said Bob Cope, a senior analyst with the city’s Business Development Division.
Rich Walker, a commercial broker with First Properties Inc. of Colorado Springs, said Wal-Mart’s strategy with the stores is to target neighborhoods that have been ignored or abandoned by other groceries. The market stores also help take the load off Wal-Mart supercenters.
“Wal-Mart is doing a service for the southeast part of the city,” Walker said. “You’re getting a lot of empty, ghost buildings on South Academy,” Walker said. “Their presence will trigger other retailers.”
But don’t be surprised if Wal-Mart looks at other areas of the city, too, said Mark Useman, a broker with Sierra Commercial Real Estate. There are plenty of opportunities — and vacant storefronts – elsewhere in town, he said.
Useman said he expects Wal-Mart’s smaller, neighborhood stores to go head-to-head with Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons. Walker said those groceries can withstand the competition because they have wide selections, but he expects the Wal-Mart Markets to be a bigger threat to smaller chains such as Sav-A-Lot, which has one local store.
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