RICHMOND EXPECTS WAL-MART CENTERS

RICHMOND, Va. -- Wal-Mart Stores reportedly will convert four of its traditional discount stores in this market into supercenters -- which would bring yet another grocery operator into an already competitive area.The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer -- which operated 162 supercenters in 49 states at the close of the first quarter ended April 30 -- plans to expand three stores in the region into supercenters

RICHMOND, Va. -- Wal-Mart Stores reportedly will convert four of its traditional discount stores in this market into supercenters -- which would bring yet another grocery operator into an already competitive area.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer -- which operated 162 supercenters in 49 states at the close of the first quarter ended April 30 -- plans to expand three stores in the region into supercenters and replace a fourth unit with the format, observers said.

The first unit, slated to reopen later this year, is the Colonial Heights, Va., store. That supercenter would be the company's third largest unit at 225,000 square feet, according to observers. Two other units scheduled to reopen as supercenters this summer -- in Short Pump and Chester, Va. -- would average about 185,000 square feet. The replacement supercenter, expected to run 201,000 square feet, is scheduled to open in early 1997, observers said.

Wal-Mart officials could not be reached for comment.

The leaders in the Richmond metro area are, according to observers: Ukrop's Super Markets here, with an estimated 34% market share; Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., with an estimated 21% share, and Farm Fresh, Norfolk, Va., with an estimated 16% share.

The region -- already considered an overstored market by some observers -- has been the focus of attention by other operators. Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, and Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., have both disclosed intentions to enter the fray.