Walmart expedites small stores amid employee wage protests

By Tiffany Hsu

Los Angeles Times

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10 2012 9:55 p.m. MDT

Get ready for more small Walmart 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 Walmart 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 Walmart 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 Walmart is hoping to expand.

Meanwhile, more Walmart employees are walking off the job, according to protest organizers. The strike started in Los Angeles on Oct. 4 and has since spread to more than 12 cities, according to organizers.

Protest planners said the strikes were the first ever in Walmart's 50-year history. A hundred employees protested outside the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., on Wednesday, as executives met 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 SumOfUs.org, 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.

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