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Let the speculation begin about Walmart Market

BY Mike Troy

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Walmart has rebranded the small-format food-and-drug combo store Neighborhood Market as Walmart Market.

(THE NEWS: Coming soon: More Walmart Market stores. For the full story, click here.)

Now the guessing game can begin about how many of the approximately 40,000-sq.-ft. stores the company ultimately might be able to open and the time frame in which the expansion could occur, given Walmart’s resources, available real estate and an army of assistant store managers who have undergone the retail equivalent of Navy Seal training by working in Walmart’s supercenters.

Bill Simon, president and CEO of the company’s U.S. stores division, made clear during an investor presentation on Thursday that the financial returns now are comparable to those of the company’s supercenters. That has encouraged the company to move faster with expanding the base of 155 domestic Walmart Market stores.

“There are 180 that have been approved through our real estate committee,” Simon said during a presentation at the William Blair & Company Growth Stock Conference. “We expect to have about 300 of them by 2013. The number for next year is approaching 100 that we’ll be able to put in.”

Simon referenced providing more details on the Walmart Market expansion in October, which is when the company holds its annual investor conference and reveals its capital expenditures budget for the coming year along with details around square footage expansion and stores openings by format type.

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Ex-Apple exec fulfills dream, becomes JCPenney CEO

BY Mike Troy

PLANO, Texas — Things just got a whole lot more interesting in the mid-tier department store space now that JCPenney has hired former Apple executive Ron Johnson to be its CEO. Johnson is a former Target merchandising executive who for the past 11 years oversaw the growth of Apple’s wildly successful and widely heralded retail operation.

In his new role at JCPenney, which he will assume on Nov. 1 when current CEO Mike Ullman relinquishes the position to become executive chairman, Johnson contends he is taking on a role that will allow him to pursue the single greatest opportunity in American retailing: reinventing the department store.

Johnson said he had always dreamed of leading a major retail company as CEO, adding, “I have tremendous confidence in JCPenney’s future and look forward to working with Mike Ullman, the executive board and the company’s 150,000 associates to transform the way America shops.”

For the past 11 years, Johnson served as SVP retail at Apple where he led the company’s retail strategy from inception to more than 300 locations worldwide. While the Apple retail network isn’t large, this is one situation where size doesn’t matter, as Apple stores’ approach to customer service and their operating model are widely praised.

Prior to Apple, Johnson spent 15 years at Target, last serving as VP merchandising. During his tenure at Target, he had responsibility for such categories as men’s apparel, women’s apparel and accessories, children’s and home. According to JCPenney, Johnson is most noted for launching and leading the design initiative at Target, which began with the Michael Graves collection for home and included several other such key brands as Calphalon, Carr, Bodum and more.

He also has an MBA from Harvard Business School and his Bachelor of Arts in economics from Stanford.

Given his background, outgoing CEO Ullman’s comment that, “I am delighted that Ron is joining our board and the company,” seemed like a bit of an understatement.

“He is widely recognized and highly regarded in the retail industry for his creativity and innovation, his commitment to empowering employees to deliver an unparalleled customer experience, and to making stores exciting places where people love to shop,” Ullman said. “His tremendous accomplishments at Apple and Target speak to his great consumer merchandising, marketing and operational talent.”

JCPenney won’t be losing the services of Ullman when Johnson assumes his new position later this year. Ullman, who joined the company as chairman and CEO in late 2004 will remain on the board. He also serves as deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, sits on the board of Starbucks, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and is chairman of the board of Mercy Ships International.

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Leonard Green, CVC team up for BJ’s buyout bid

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Leonard Green & Partners and CVC Capital Partners said Friday they are making a joint buyout bid worth an undisclosed amount for BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The two private equity firms revealed their plans in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday. The bid price was not disclosed.

In February, BJ’s announced it was exploring a sale. In March, Leonard Green already is the chain’s larger shareholder, with a 9.3% stake.

BJ’s spokeswoman Cathy Maloney said the company wouldn’t comment on its process of exploring strategic offerings until the process has ended, the Associated Press reported.

BJ’s operates more than 190 warehouse clubs in 15 states.

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