Walmart to close 269 stores

by Eric Schroeder
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Most of the financial impact will come from US store closures, the company said.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has announced plans to close 269 stores across the world, including all 102 Wal-Mart Express outlets. The move follows a strategic review of the company’s portfolio that has been under way since last fall. As part of that review, Walmart executives looked at the retailer’s nearly 11,600 worldwide stores, examining financial performance as well as strategic alignment with long-term plans. In total, the affected stores represent less than 1 percent of both global square footage and revenue, Walmart said. 

Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores

“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores. “Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future. It’s important to remember that we’ll open well more than 300 stores around the world next year. So we are committed to growing, but we are being disciplined about it.”

Walmart’s latest plans call for the closing of 154 locations in the United States, including the company’s 102 smallest format stores, Wal-Mart Express, which had been in pilot since 2011. Walmart said it instead will focus on strengthening Supercenters, optimizing Neighborhood Markets, growing its e-commerce business and expanding pickup services for customers. The closings also include 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount centers and four Sam’s Clubs.

Internationally, Walmart said it is following a “disciplined strategy” of managing its portfolio. The company plans to close 115 stores outside the United States, including 60 recently closed, loss-making stores in Brazil, which represent 5 percent of sales in that market. The remaining 55 stores are primarily small, loss-making stores in other Latin American markets, Walmart said.

Despite the closings, Walmart said it remains committed to growth and plans to open stores worldwide in the coming fiscal year. Domestically, Walmart intends to open 50 to 60 Supercenters and 85 to 95 Neighborhood Markets in fiscal 2017, which begins Feb. 1. In the same period, Sam’s Club plans to open in seven to 10 new locations. Internationally, Walmart intends to open between 200 and 240 stores during the coming fiscal year.

The financial impact of the closings is estimated to be approximately 20 cents to 22 cents of diluted earnings per share from continuing operations, with approximately 19 cents to 20 cents expected to impact the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016. The remainder of the impact will fall into the first half of fiscal 2017. Approximately 75 percent of the impact relates to US closings, and the remaining portion involves Wal-Mart International, with a large majority of the international impact relating to the closings in Brazil, the company said.

The decision in total will affect approximately 16,000 associates, about 10,000 of them in the United States. More than 95 percent of the closed stores in the United States are within 10 miles on average of another Walmart, and the company said it hopes associates will be placed in nearby locations. Where that isn’t possible, the company said it will provide 60 days of pay and, if eligible, severance, as well as resume and interview skills training.

“The decision to close stores is difficult, and we care about the associates who will be impacted,” McMillon said. “We invested considerable time assessing our stores and clubs and don’t take this lightly. We are supporting those impacted with extra pay and support, and we will take all appropriate steps to ensure they are treated well.”

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