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Wal-Mart to ramp up small stores amid employee strikes

By Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times –

Get ready for more small Wal-Mart stores, and sooner. The mega-retailer known for its big-box strategy said it’s planning to speed up openings of its Neighborhood Market and Express stores.

While some Wal-Mart workers are protesting low wages and slashed hours with a strike that started last week in Los Angeles and has spread to other cities, the company said Wednesday that it hopes to launch 500 Neighborhood Market stores and 12 Express stores by fiscal year 2016.

William S. Simon, president of Wal-Mart U.S., discussed the plans at an analyst’ meeting and said that company had 10 Express stores and 217 Neighborhood Market locations operating at the end of July.

The Express format is usually 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, while the Neighborhood Market concept tends to come in under 55,000 square feet. Both models are designed to operate well in urban markets, where Wal-Mart is hoping to expand.

Meanwhile, more Wal-Mart employees are walking off the job, according to protest organizers. The strike started in Los Angeles on Thursday and has since spread to more than 12 cities, according to organizers.

Protest planners said the strikes were the first ever in Wal-Mart’s 50-year history. A hundred employees protested outside the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., on Wednesday, as executives meet with analysts and investors, organizers said.

“These workers are sick of toiling in 100-plus-degree heat, they’re sick of poverty wages, and most of all, they’re sick of being ignored by management,” Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of the activist group, said in a statement.

The organization said it took out $6,500 in ads in local newspapers in the Bentonville area to support the effort.

Wal-Mart’s workforce worldwide totals more than 1 million.

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