Wal-Mart pulls plug on smallest store format, shuts 269 stores

A Wal-Mart store in Landover, Maryland.
A Wal-Mart store in Landover, Maryland. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday that it was pulling the plug on its smallest store format, Walmart Express, and closing 269 locations globally, including 154 in the United States, in a restructuring that will affect 16,000 workers.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said the move would reduce diluted earnings per share by 20 cents to 22 cents, with nearly all of that to be booked in the fourth quarter ending this month.

The move comes three months after Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon signaled to investors that he was planning to review the retailer's global operations and shut underperforming stores. Friday's announcement marks the first step in that restructuring effort.

Wal-Mart said it planned to close 102 of its Express format stores, which at 12,000 to 15,000 square feet are less than one-tenth the size of a typical Supercenter. The format had been in pilot since 2011 but did not deliver the desired results.

The other 52 U.S. stores are a mixture of Supercenters, Wal-Mart's largest format; discount stores; a grocery format called Neighborhood Market and Sam's Club, its bulk-selling wholesale chain. "Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business," Mr McMillon said in a release."Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future."

Wal-Mart said it was closing 115 stores internationally, with 60 coming from Brazil and the balance mainly smaller, money-losing locations in other Latin American countries. Reuters reported the Brazil closings on Thursday.