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The Financial Times reports that Wal-Mart appears to be positioning its soon-to-be-opened Marketside small-store format as a premium-focused rather than value-driven shopping experience.

“Job advertisements for the new Wal-Mart business say the stores will deliver ‘unique solutions for time-starved consumers in a premium fresh/convenience oriented format’ – an indication of the pricing position of the new 15,000 sq ft stores,” FT writes. “Wal-Mart has already indicated that the neighbourhood stores will be focused on delivering ‘meal solutions’. Store planning documents indicate that food will be prepared and served on the premises, in contrast to the minimalist utilitarian approach of Tesco’s hard discount Fresh & Easy stores.”

FT also notes that the Marketside format is the first new concept launched by Wal-Mart in a decade, and comes at a time when Wal-Mart appears to be rejuvenating itself through a low-price strategy that resonates with US consumers at a time of economic recession.

KC's View:
This would be an interesting decision, especially in view of the fact that when Wal-Mart tried to move up-market in categories such as fashion, it didn’t work and the company had to backtrack. Doesn’t mean that Marketside won’t or can't work…it just means that the format is likely to represent a real departure, not just a repackaging of familiar elements.

Which means that Marketside is likely to be more rather than less interesting…and that the battle between Wal-Mart and Tesco will be fascinating.