The big-box final frontier - Macleans.ca

The big-box final frontier

Wal-Mart was one of the few companies that actually benefited from the recession.

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Thanks to its low-price focus, Wal-Mart was one of the few companies that actually benefited from the recession. Now, the retailing behemoth is hoping concerns about a “jobless recovery” will open up the one market Wal-Mart has yet to crack: big urban centres.

In Chicago, city councillors anxious to create jobs recently approved a Wal-Mart store that had previously run into local opposition. Wal-Mart is hoping it’s the beginning of a trend, and is reportedly contemplating smaller stores—about four per cent the size of a typical supercentre—that it can pack full of groceries and wedge into other big-city neighbourhoods.

Another concept is urban stores where customers can pick up items ordered over the Internet. Not only would that be convenient, it would save image-conscious city dwellers the embarrassment of being caught shopping in a chain often derided as a suburban blight.