Wal-Mart May like Our Neighborhood

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. might be shopping Jacksonville for sites to develop its Neighborhood Market concept, which appears to be a direct competitor to grocery stores.

The giant discount retailer opened its first Neighborhood Market stores in 1998 and now operates more than 30, generally in markets with Wal-Mart Supercenters.

The Neighborhood Markets sell produce, deli, meat, dairy, health and household items and offer photo and pharmacy departments, much like traditional supermarkets. They range from 42,000 to 55,000 square feet in size, similar to supermarkets like Publix and Winn-Dixie stores, and employ 80 to 100 people each.

When launching the concept, Wal-Mart said the market stores were "designed to complement and support Wal-Mart Supercenters by meeting the shopping needs of consumers who live between Supercenter locations."

The Bentonville, Ark.-based chain has been expanding its Supercenter locations, which range up to 230,000 square feet in size.

We hear that the chain has been considering several sites around town for the Neighborhood Markets and might have some under contract, but Wal-Mart says nothing is certain.

"We do not have any locations planned immediately for the Jacksonville area," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Daphne Moore. "Right now we don't have anything official."

CITIBANK: We also hear that Citibank might decide soon where to locate a Southside campus for its 4,000 employees and a potential 500 more.

The credit card company is considering four options: Staying put at the five buildings it owns or leases in Deerwood Center in Baymeadows; choosing among two sites along Florida 9A, both owned by Skinner family; or developing at Gran Park at Jacksonville, a Flagler Development Co. …