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Wal-Mart Agrees to Open a Store in Anaheim Plaza : Retailing: The discount giant would anchor the renovated center when it reopens late next year. The deal is contingent on completion of new freeway on-ramp nearby.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Wal-Mart store will open in the renovated Anaheim Plaza late next year, the shopping center’s developer said Tuesday.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the folksy discount retailer that has become the largest in the nation, has been wooed by several Orange County cities, including Tustin, Irvine and Mission Viejo. Landing Wal-Mart is a coup “for us and for the city of Anaheim,” said Jan Wohlwend, general manager of the plaza. She said the 156,000-square-foot store, to open in the fall of 1994, will be by far the largest in the revamped plaza, which is at the Santa Ana Freeway and Euclid Street.

The deal with Wal-Mart is contingent on the completion of a freeway on-ramp that would handle traffic leaving the plaza. A spokesman for the city said Tuesday that Anaheim is negotiating with the state Department of Transportation and hopes to reach an agreement by the end of this month.

Anaheim would be the second Orange County location to capture a Wal-Mart. In June, officials of Laguna Niguel said the retailer is close to signing an agreement to enter the Marketplace, a shopping center being planned on Alicia Parkway at Pacific Park Drive. The shopping center is expected to open late next year.

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The developer for the Laguna Niguel site, Shappell Industries in Beverly Hills, could not be reached Tuesday to comment on the progress of its negotiations with Wal-Mart. However, the company has included a Wal-Mart store in its site plan, now being studied by city officials.

Wal-Mart is a prize because one of its stores could generate as much as $1 million a year in sales tax revenue in Orange County, city officials say.

The retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., has opened more than 120 stores a year nationwide during the past decade. Wal-Mart has built its success on low prices and friendly service: A greeter waits inside the entrance of each store to direct customers to whatever merchandise they are seeking.

The company now owns 1,900 Wal-Marts and 250 Sam’s Club membership warehouse stores. For 1992, the company posted a profit of $2 billion on sales of more than $55 billion.

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Wal-Mart officials are consistently closemouthed about their expansion plans. However, the company has now “approved a corporate expansion plan for Orange County,” said Brad Deck, vice president of development at Donahue Schriber, which is rebuilding the Anaheim Plaza.

Work crews are scheduled to begin tearing down most of the shopping center in August, with a reconstructed mall to open for business on the site in late 1994. The open-air shopping center will incorporate the existing Mervyn’s department store and the Marie Callender’s and Chili’s restaurants.

Discount stores such as Wal-Mart are being sought by malls to attract business during the lingering recession. Shopping centers in the past turned up their noses at stores such as Wal-Mart.

Circuit City, the low-price electronics and appliance chain, was recruited by swank Fashion Island in Newport Beach. And the Mall of Orange is boasting about its Just A Buck store, where every item costs $1.

Another factor in discount stores’ growing popularity, analysts say, is that consumers have become more cost-conscious. Also, a shake-out among full-price department stores has left shopping centers with a void to fill. Robinson’s and May Co. combined their stores in January, the Buffums chain is no longer in business and the Broadway has been closing less-profitable locations during the past two years.

Times staff writer Chris Woodyard contributed to this report.


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