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The Financial Times reports that Walmart expects its new small-store Marketside format, slated to be unveiled this fall, to eventually grow to more than a thousand units and generate annual sales in excess of $10 billion. The expectations, FT writes, are laid out in a job advertisement posted by the retailer; however, once queried about the ad, Walmart reportedly took the posting off its website.

According to the story, Walmart plans to open 10 Marketside stores initially, with at least four in the Phoenix market, where they will go head-to-head against Tesco’s Fresh & Easy small-store format.

Marketside has been described by Walmart as a 15,000 square foot store that will cater to “the needs of a time-starved, higher-income consumer that is interested in convenience and premium fresh, natural and organic offerings”. This would distinguish the format from the company’s Neighborhood Market format, which has always been more along the lines of a traditional supermarket.

There currently are about 140 Walmart Neighborhood Markets operating around the country, and the chain has not expanded the concept more because the ROI on the format has not been as high as on its supercenters. Presumably, Walmart believes it has resolved the ROI problem…and it wants to use the Marketside format at least in part to serve communities that have been resistant to its efforts to open a larger superstore.

KC's View:
Kudos to FT for tracking down the job posting. Phoenix may indeed be a “pilot,” but this is akin to sending in a small assault team. If it is successful, the full might and force of Walmart will come to bear on the small store segment of the business.