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Wal-Mart readies Levittown supermarket debut

Long Island's first Walmart Neighborhood Market will debut July 10. These stores, about a quarter of the size of its large-format stores, function very much like a supermarket, with a pharmacy, produce and deli sections. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (July 1, 2013)

Wal-Mart's smaller supermarket format will debut on Long Island next week, when the mass retailer unveils a Neighborhood Market in Levittown and begins to compete head to head with traditional supermarkets.

Shoppers won't see bikes or apparel at this store, at 3335 Hempstead Tpke. But they will see more of the typical supermarket aisles, with an extensive meat selection, an expanded frozen section, a deli and a bakery, as well as a pharmacy, and health and beauty section, said store manager Nadine Negron.

Workers Monday were filling shelves and setting up displays, preparing the store -- which is just down the street from a King Kullen supermarket -- for its grand opening at 8 a.m. on July 10. The 49,395- square-foot store also will be the first Walmart Neighborhood Market in the state.

Mass retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. have been experimenting in recent years by building smaller stores as a way to saturate markets where large sites are difficult to find. The companies are hoping to appeal to consumers looking to shorten their shopping trip, said Natalie Everett, a retail industry analyst with Santa Monica, Calif.-based IBISWorld Inc.

Wal-Mart has about 250 Neighborhood Markets nationwide. The stores are half the size of Walmart's regular discount centers, which average 106,000 square feet of space. A Walmart Supercenter averages about 182,000 square feet.

"With unemployment dropping, people are busier, but consumers still want the great low prices they were paying because they were money-conscious during the recession, and they want the convenience of a smaller store," Everett said.

Wal-Mart has expanded the selection of items expected to be in high demand at the Levittown store, such as baby supplies and formula, and will tailor its meat and produce to the demands of local shoppers as well, Negron said.

Wal-Mart's ability to negotiate low prices will make it difficult for even the larger grocery-store chains to compete on price, Everett said. Revenues for supermarkets and grocery stores have contracted 0.4 percent, on average, annually since 2008, reflecting the fierce pricing competition, she said.

"It's a race to the bottom for pricing," Everett said.

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