Wal-Mart overhauling five stores in Maine

Posted June 25, 2010, at 12:25 p.m.

PALMYRA, Maine — Customers at five Wal-Mart locations in Maine will see major changes this summer as the retail giant upgrades the stores to match the national model and improve the shopping experience.

At the Palmyra Wal-Mart Supercenter, where work by contractors is already under way, the project requires a round-the-clock effort, according to store manager Robert Simek.

“So far, the reaction has been tremendously positive,” said Simek, who took over managing the store last fall. “The company is trying to get all of its stores nationwide to look the same.”

Included in the Palmyra project will be some major visual changes, such as a new color scheme that includes tan and light blue outside and yellow and green in the grocery section. The store will have wider aisles, shorter shelving and no more product displays in the walkways, Simek said.

The pet section will be moved closer to the groceries and the shoes and clothing section will be compressed. Perhaps the biggest change, said Simek, is a doubling in size of the electronics section, which will lead to more products and more brands.

“Every category in the department will be increased by 50 percent,” he said, adding that the chain recently picked up televisions made by LG and is aggressively expanding its Blu-ray equipment and movie offerings.

“Blu-ray is going to get much bigger as it gets cheaper,” Simek said.

Also included in the project will be new registers, lights and a completely revamped grocery section including brand new appliances.

To accomplish the changes while minimizing the impact on customers, Simek said he has hired 64 temporary employees to shuffle merchandise around the clock. Construction crews are limiting their work to when the store is closed from midnight to 6 a.m. The store has instituted a system of maps to help customers locate merchandise that has been moved.

The Palmyra Wal-Mart, which employs 215 people, opened in 1994 and later expanded to a Supercenter store that includes groceries. Located on the Newport-Palmyra town line, the store is a retail destination for numerous small towns in the area.

Wal-Mart also is renovating four other Maine stores this year, including those in Lincoln, Farmington, Auburn and Mexico. Wal-Mart operates a total of 25 stores in Maine, which includes three Sam’s Clubs, employing more than 7,000 people. Each Supercenter keeps approximately 142,000 individual items on its shelves, according to Wal-Mart’s website.

The Palmyra project is scheduled to be completed in August. Simek said a grand re-opening is planned for Aug. 27.

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