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Wal-Mart planning new S.C. stores, training centers

Retail
Ashley Heffernan
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The Wal-Mart Supercenter store at 7400 Rivers Ave. is one of two North Charleston stores that will be remodeled before Jan. 31. (Photo/Ashley Heffernan)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to remodel two North Charleston stores, build up to six stores across the state and add two new training centers in the state over the next nine months, according to a corporate spokesman.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter stores at 7400 Rivers Ave. and 4920 Centre Pointe Drive in North Charleston will remain open while they are remodeled, said Phil Keene, the company’s corporate communications director for the Southeast and Northeast regions. Dates for the remodels have not been released, but Keene said they will occur before Jan. 31, the end of the company’s fiscal year.

Wal-Mart operates 4,600 U.S. stores and is planning to open an additional 60 stores across the country this year. The company is largely shifting of its focus, though, moving away from building new stores and toward renovating existing ones. Over the next nine months, it will remodel about 580 stores, Keene said.

“The plan right now is to make what we have the best it can be, and we’re doing that,” Keene said.

A remodeled store, he said, will have new colors, signs, shelving and lighting, in addition to floor and parking lot repairs and upgrades in certain departments, such as a technology table in the electronics department.

The company is adding two new S.C. stores this year, including a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, the retailer’s smaller-format store, in Myrtle Beach and a Supercenter in Beaufort.

Wal-Mart employs about 32,300 workers in the state. The two new stores would create 350 jobs.

Keene said up to four more stores — including a Neighborhood Market in Summerville — are being considered but are still in the planning phases. Summerville currently has two Neighborhood Market stores and a Supercenter.

Classroom work

Wal-Mart has already built 60 of its planned 200 training facilities across the United States and is adding two more in South Carolina this year.

The training facilities, which are located in the back of or near Wal-Mart Supercenter stores, include classroom space where workers go to learn retail fundamentals. Training facilities are operating in Florence and Columbia; by the end of January, two more will be added, at 2110 Bells Highway in Walterboro and at 922 E. Main St. in Laurens.

The goal of the upcoming changes, Keene said, is to standardize the customer experience throughout all the stores, with customers seeing a similar store, receiving similar treatment from employees and buying a similar assortment of items, regardless of the location.

“If we’re going to have dramatic change in the customer experience, we’re going to demand more, we’re going to need more from folks, we’re going to ask them to learn more, we’re going to need more dynamic, stronger, faster-running associates, we’ve got to do our part,” Keene said. “We’ve got to train them.”

Each facility serves about 20 stores, and training ranges from two weeks to six, depending on the job.

“It’s an investment in those actual associates,” he said. “The goal is to be the best in retail, and we’re serious about it by doing the academies.”

Reach Ashley Heffernan at 843-849-3144.

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