WESLEY CHAPEL — Just days after opening a huge new supercenter on State Road 54, Wal-Mart officials were meeting with the county’s planning staff to discuss plans for another Wesley Chapel store.
The world’s largest retailer wants to build a Neighborhood Market store next to the existing Sam’s Club on S.R. 56 — about 4 miles from the new supercenter. Wal-Mart Stores bought the 4.4-acre parcel in 2009 for $2.4 million. The new grocery store would be 43,000 square feet.
It would be Pasco’s second Neighborhood Market store. The first is already under construction in New Port Richey’s Ridge Plaza shopping center.
The retailer is rapidly expanding its neighborhood market line — it plans to open 200 new U.S. stores this year — to compete with other grocery chains, as well as dollar stores and drug stores that are expanding into grocery sales.
Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley explained the strategy earlier this month while discussing Wal-Mart’s second//-//quarter earnings.
“I think convenience is where the consumers have been looking, if you look at the baby boomers or whatnot,” he said. “We still do a very nice full basket trip at our supercenters. But if you look at what we call the ‘fill-in trip,’ I think there’s been well over 10,000 new small stores in the U.S. in the last three years. I think convenience is becoming a factor. And if you look at what we offer at the Neighborhood Market that some of these small stores don’t — you have the fresh categories, which a lot of these small stores don’t, you have a pharmacy and you have fuel. Those are very important, I think, for the success of the Neighborhood Markets.”
He said the smaller stores complement the supercenters, rather than drawing customers away from the larger stores. “First of all, the supercenter still has one of the highest returns of any format we have in the company. So, overall, it is a great format and still does a very good job of one-stop shopping and that large-basket trip. So we like where we’re headed.”
The company owns two large undeveloped parcels in Pasco County. In 2006, the company paid $4.8 million for 23 acres just south of Dade City, at U.S. 301 and Clinton Avenue. The Dade City store is 30 years old, so it likely will be replaced by a new supercenter.
Development Director Michael Sherman said he’s started to hear rumors that Wal-Mart might be gearing up to build on the Dade City site, but no one from the company has contacted the city. “Their plans have expired, so they would have to go through the development process again,” he said.
A Publix-anchored shopping center slated for the same intersection received its final development order on Friday. The Publix will be 45,600 square feet in a shopping complex that also will have two other commercial buildings, according to a site plan submitted to the city by Coastal Engineering Associates in Brooksville. The site is an orange grove, but it was rezoned by the city for a commercial shopping center in June 2011.