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Latino-Focused Wal-Mart, Sam's Club Stores to Open

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Wal-Mart is accelerating its efforts to better service Hispanic shoppers in the United States with plans to open new small-format “supermercado” stores, as well as a Latino-focused version of its Sam’s Club warehouse concept this year.

According to a report by the Financial Times, the world’s largest retailer will open its first Hispanic-focused supermarkets this summer in Phoenix and Houston within two remodeled 39,000-square-foot locations that previously housed Walmart Neighborhood Market stores.

Located in “strongly Hispanic neighborhoods,” the Supermercado de Walmart stores will feature a “new layout, signing and product assortment designed to make them even more relevant to local Hispanic customers,” said the retailer. The staff will be bilingual.

The new Más Club, a Hispanic version of Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, will be 143,000 square feet and open in Houston this year.

Eduardo Castro-Wright, the head of Wal-Mart's U.S. stores since 2005, has been an advocate of testing new smaller, more focused formats, and raised the idea of turning the Neighborhood Market into a Hispanic-style bodega concept several years ago, according to the Times.

He is also credited with developing Wal-Mart's efforts to customize its larger Supercenter stores, which have been grouped according to differing community profiles, such as urban, suburban, Hispanic and African-American, with customized merchandise.

A 195,000-square-foot Supercenter that opened in Texas last year included a tortillería bakery, Hispanic foods and a larger selection of Spanish-language music and DVDs, according to the report.

Castro-Wright was previously head of Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary, whose store network ranges from large U.S.-style Supercenters to small local bodegas, an upmarket supermarket chain and two restaurant chains.

Last year, Wal-Mart also began testing four new 10,000-square-foot Marketside convenience grocery stores in the Phoenix area -- its first new format in a decade. Tesco, the U.K. retailer, also has more than 25 of its small Fresh & Easy markets in the Phoenix area.