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Wal-Mart Plans to Open Store in State, Developer Reveals

Times Staff Writer

Wal-Mart--the folksy, homespun discount chain that has changed the face of retailing in many a Small Town, U.S.A.--appears close to making its West Coast debut with a store in the Central Valley.

An official with Riley/Pearlman, a Los Angeles development firm, said Friday that Wal-Mart plans to build a store as part of a new shopping center in Madera, a community of 27,000 that is northwest of Fresno. Riley/Pearlman is developing the center.

The 99,500-square-foot store probably would open in fall, 1990, said Kirk Smith, a Riley/Pearlman managing partner based in Sacramento.

Brenda Lockhart, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman at the Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, declined to comment on the company’s California plans.

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In the last few years, the Wal-Mart juggernaut has been advancing westward with an aggressive expansion that has taken it as far as Colorado and Arizona. The company tends to move outward in concentric circles, building stores in small towns that often are not served by other prominent retailers. California is the logical next step, observers said.

“This is a company that is adding 150 discount stores per year,” said Bernard Sosnick, a retail analyst with Deutsche Bank Capital, a New York investment firm. “California is its next stop.”

Has Hypermarkets

The fast-growing, 26-year-old company has consistently won kudos on Wall Street for its skillful merchandising and robust profit growth. From a single five-and-dime store in Newport, Ark., the Wal-Mart empire has grown to 1,307 stores in 25 states, along with 108 wholesale clubs, called Sam’s Wholesale Club, in 21 states.

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It also recently entered the so-called hypermarket business with 220,000-square-foot stores called Hypermart USA that combine a full-line grocery store and a discount general merchandise operation under one roof.

For the year ended Jan. 31, the company reported profit of $837 million on sales of nearly $21 billion. It is the nation’s third-largest retailer after Sears, Roebuck & Co. and K mart.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was founded by the legendary Sam M. Walton, its chairman, who is given to hunting quail and driving around in a pickup truck despite having a Rolls-Royce budget. In the latest Forbes magazine survey of the wealthy, Walton, 71, and his family were reported to have a total worth of $8.7 billion.


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