What to Expect From Wal-Mart in 2014

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

With the new year in sight, we at the Fool like to review how Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) stocks have performed over the past 11 months and take a look at where they may be headed in the future. Today I will be looking at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and what the company has in store in 2014 and beyond.

On the surface, many blue-chip stocks on the Dow look like fully mature companies that have little room to grow. But with Wal-Mart, that is not the case. Neither here at home nor on the global stage has the company reached its maximum store count. Wal-Mart plans to open between 120 to 150 small-format stores, which usually are about 38,000 square feet, while also opening around 125 large-format stores, which are larger than 100,000 square feet. (The "Supercenters" come in at around 185,000 square feet.) The company plans to have these new stores open before January 2015.

Currently Wal-Mart has 306 small-format locations, so this addition would increase the store count by more than 25%. The additional larger-format stores don't represent a huge increase, considering Wal-Mart already operates more than 11,000 such locations around the world. Nevertheless, this shows that the company has not yet reached its maximum store count in the U.S.

Wal-Mart has some amazing opportunities around the world left to explore. Based on information from the company's Chinese chief, Greg Foran, Wal-Mart will be adding 110 locations in China over the next three years. Additionally, the retailer will close 30 stores during that time due to weak performance. But as we have seen with other companies moving into China, dominant U.S. brands do not always work there.

While the Chinese expansion can be seen as a great growth opportunity for Wal-Mart, we need to view this move with a little caution. If 110 stores are opened in the next few years, we have to imagine a few of them will fail. The company is planning to close 30 of its 398 locations in the country, or 7.5%. It seems growth in China will come with difficulty, so investors shouldn't expect 1,000 locations in China for a long time.

Final thoughts
I often hear investors, analysts, and experts say that although Wal-Mart won't lose massive market share to competitors like Amazon.com and Target, it will grow slowly. However, I can't help but think about the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady won that race, and while on the surface it may seem Wal-Mart doesn't have a lot of growth left, I believe it will continue adding 100 or more stores to its global store count each year for a very, very long time. With more than 4,000 locations in the U.S. and little more than 6,000 locations throughout the rest of the world, growth can and will continue for the king of retail.

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  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2013, at 2:40 PM, 123spot wrote:

    Refreshing contrarian view. Thank you.

    I am long WMT believing that this is the tortoise that can win. Spot

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