Wal-Mart to close 8 Louisiana stores _lowres

Six Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market properties in south Louisiana have been sold to a group of investors. The smaller stores primarily sell grocery items and have pharmacies.

ASSOCITED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Wal-Mart will close eight Louisiana stores by Jan. 28 as part of an effort by the world’s largest retailer to manage its portfolio and invest in larger Supercenters.

The stores targeted are in Clinton, Independence, Kentwood, Colfax, Mamou, Lake Arthur, Iowa and Zwolle. All of the stores opened in 2015 as part of a push by the company to build smaller stores.

About 240 employees at the Louisiana stores will be affected by the layoffs.

Wal-Mart said it will close 269 stores in the U.S. and globally, including more than a 100 of its smallest-format stores.

“Closing stores is never an easy decision, but it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. “It’s important to remember that we’ll open well more than 300 stores around the world next year.”

In Louisiana, Wal-Mart plans to open nine more stores in the upcoming year, a move that will create nearly 1,045 jobs, said Anne Hatfield, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman. This week, new stores opened in Gretna and Ruston. An Express store proposed on Old Hammond Highway won’t be built, but another Neighborhood Market is planned for the city. Wal-Mart has more than 130 stores in Louisiana.

The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue.

More than 95 percent of the stores set to be closed in the U.S. are within 10 miles of another Wal-Mart.

The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it is working to ensure workers are placed in nearby locations.

The announcement comes three months after McMillon told investors that the world’s largest retailer would review its fleet of stores with the goal of becoming more nimble in the face of increased competition from all fronts, including from online rival Amazon.com.

“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business,” McMillon said in a statement.

Wal-Mart operates 4,500 stores in the U.S. Its global workforce is 2.2 million, with 1.4 million in the U.S. alone.

Wal-Mart has warned that its earnings for the fiscal year starting next month will be down as much as 12 percent as it invests further in online operations and pours money into improving customers’ experience.

Of the closures announced Friday, 154 locations will be in the U.S., including the company’s 102 smallest-format stores, Wal-Mart Express, which were opened as a test in 2011.

Wal-Mart Express marked the retailer’s first entry into the convenience store arena. The stores are about 12,000 square feet and sell essentials like toothpaste. But the concept never caught on as the stores served the same purpose as Wal-Mart’s larger Neighborhood Markets: fill-in trips and prescription pickups.

Also covered in the closures are 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 Supercenters, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount stores and four Sam’s Clubs.

Wal-Mart will now focus in the U.S. on Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, the e-commerce business and pickup services for shoppers.

The retailer is closing 60 loss-making locations in Brazil, which account for 5 percent of sales in that market. Wal-Mart, which operated 558 stores in Brazil before the closures, has struggled as the economy there has soured. Its “Every Day Low Price” strategy also has not been able to break against heavy promotions from key rivals.

The remaining 55 stores are spread elsewhere in Latin America.

Wal-Mart said it’s still sticking to its plan announced last year to open 50 to 60 Supercenters, 85 to 95 Neighborhood Markets and seven to 10 Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. during the fiscal year that begins Feb. 1. Outside the U.S., Wal-Mart plans to open 200 to 240 stores.

The financial impact of the closures is expected to be 20 cents to 22 cents per diluted earnings per share from continuing operations, with about 19 cents to 20 cents expected to affect the current fourth quarter. The company is expected to release fourth-quarter and full-year results on Feb. 18.

Associated Press business writer Anne D’Innocenzio and Advocate business writer Timothy Boone contributed to this report.