Wal-Mart store
Joe Raedle  /  Getty Images file
People shop at a Wal-Mart store in Bowie, Md. The world’s biggest retailer plans to open more than 1,500 stores in the United States.
updated 2/8/2006 10:19:41 AM ET 2006-02-08T15:19:41

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open more than 1,500 stores in the United States in the coming years, on top of nearly 3,200 it already operates, the world's largest retailer said Tuesday.

John Menzer, the company's vice chairman and head of its domestic Wal-Mart stores division, said Wal-Mart was on schedule to meet an announced target of between 335 and 370 new U.S. store openings this year after 341 last year.

That number includes Wal-Mart discount stores, Supercenters that also have a full grocery section, smaller Neighborhood Markets and Sam's Club membership warehouses. Supercenters are the largest single group with 1,980 locations in the U.S. and the focus of future growth plans.

Menzer did not specify a timeline for the new stores. He also did not refer to zoning and permit fights that have erupted in some places where Wal-Mart wants to expand, including big markets such as California where the company has fewer locations than in its traditional bases in the South and Midwest.

"We are really focused on opening new stores right now. We see so many opportunities to open new stores that that's where our capital is going first," Menzer said during a Web cast from a financial conference hosted by Citigroup in Miami.

Wal-Mart opened 69 new stores and Sam's Clubs in January, a company record for one month, it announced last week.

Menzer said 1,800 of its existing Supercenters would be remodeled over the next 18 months to make them more inviting, adding touches such as faux wood floors, wider aisles and digital television display walls.

The remodeling program, which Menzer said would not require a large capital outlay, is part of a broader strategy to interest consumers who are already in the store for basics to buy more fashions, electronics, home furnishings and fancier foods.

Wal-Mart began working on the remodeling program last year, and formally unveiled it in October at its annual meeting with analysts.

As part of its growth plans, Wal-Mart also is experimenting with new formats for Supercenters to fit the big box structures into tighter urban neighborhoods. New styles will include multilevel stores and underground or above-store parking rather than a huge lot out front.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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