WAL-MART TO LAUNCH CLUBS, SUPERCENTERS

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores will launch its Sam's Club and Supercenter formats in Brazil and Argentina.Wal-Mart expects to open two Sam's Club units and two Supercenters in Argentina next year and possibly three clubs and one supercenter in Brazil by the first quarter of 1996, Bob Jones, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's international division, said at the company's annual

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores will launch its Sam's Club and Supercenter formats in Brazil and Argentina.

Wal-Mart expects to open two Sam's Club units and two Supercenters in Argentina next year and possibly three clubs and one supercenter in Brazil by the first quarter of 1996, Bob Jones, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's international division, said at the company's annual meeting in Fayetteville, Ark.

The first Argentinian club and Supercenter will open in the Buenos Aires area. The stores and clubs will be wholly owned and operated by Wal-Mart.

The first Brazilian units reportedly will open in Sao Paulo, a market of more than 17 million people. Wal-Mart did not disclose which format would open first. The Brazilian stores will be developed as part of a partnership between Wal-Mart and Lojas Americanas, a Rio de Janeiro-based retailer that holds 40% of the joint venture. The largest nonfood vendor in Brazil, Lojas Americanas operates 89 discount stores and posted 1993 sales of $1.1 billion.

Wal-Mart does not plan to open any conventional discount stores in South America, Jones said. Instead, it will confine its efforts to clubs and Supercenters, as it has in Mexico.

Wal-Mart officials declined to give further details about the size, merchandising or names of the stores. "It's still very early in the game, so a lot of those details are still in the planning stages," said Gerardo Ruiz, a Sam's spokesman.

Of the two South American markets, Argentina is generally seen as the surest bet for clubs and supercenters. After years of stagnancy, Argentina's economy is growing rapidly, with little or no inflation, said Jerry Rothstein, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., New York.

"For a long time, people had very little to spend," Rothstein said. "So there hasn't been much investment in retail, and distribution remains relatively obsolete."

Wal-Mart's hopes in Brazil are buoyed by Lojas Americanas' financial positioning and expertise.