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Chicago's First Walmart Market Opens Downtown

First Posted: 09/21/11 04:00 PM ET Updated: 11/21/11 05:12 AM ET

Walmart

Chicago's first Walmart Neighborhood Market opened at the Presidential Towers apartment complex Wednesday in the West Loop.

In an effort to better tailor the site to its urban clientele, the national retailer will cram wide assortments of products into the small space, WBEZ reports.

"Here is a juice display where we've essentially got about 16 feet of juice products for customers," Walmart spokesman Steve Restivo told WBEZ while standing the middle of the juice aisle. "The point is, again, even though the store is smaller, we still want to offer customers that broad assortment."

Attempting to cater to the needs of an urban market, the West Loop location offers mostly groceries, beauty and pet supplies, and includes a pharmacy, ABC Chicago reports.

At 27,000 square feet, the new location at 555 W. Madison St. is one-quarter the size of a typical Walmart, but still larger than the Walmart Express that opened in West Chatham in July, according to NBC Chicago. It will soon be dwarfed by the city's first Super Walmart in Pullman, which broke ground this week.

Walmart Express and Walmart Market, a re-branding of the 13-year-old Neighborhood Market model, are slowly spreading into cities too small for the Arkansas-based chain's traditionally titanic supermarkets, part of an effort to combat the unprecedented two-year decline the store has seen in U.S. comparable-store sales, according to the Chicago Tribune.The small grocery outposts account for fewer than 200 of Wal-Mart's approximately 4,400 U.S. stores. Chatham's 10,000-square-foot Walmart Express is the nation's first urban urban site for this smaller-scale model.

In June, Walmart's Executive Vice President Tom Mars attended Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council's annual luncheon, and called the retail super-chain's planned Chicago expansion an "Urban Retail Revolution," announcing plans for at least eight stores within city limits, in addition to 59 in the surrounding Chicagoland area. At that meeting he announced the company's intention to open similar neighborhood market sites in West Englewood and East Lakeview.

“There is no venue that presents a better opportunity for us than Chicago," Mars said. "[T]his is not the first urban market that we have entered, or pretended to enter, but it is a critically important one to us and we are absolutely committed to doing it right."

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Filed by Lizzie Schiffman  |