Wal-Mart projected today at its annual analyst and investor meeting that capital spending for the fiscal year that ends Jan. 31, 2009, will be $13 billion, down from the previous year’s $14.9 billion.
The retailer expects that, by the end of the current fiscal year, it will have added 42 million to 43 million square feet globally, compared to 46 million square feet added in the previous fiscal year.
Executive Vice President and CFO Tom Schoewe said that capital efficiency better prepares Wal-Mart for current economic conditions.
In the United States, the retailer will continue to focus on growing its supercenters, but it will do this in fewer numbers than in recent years. By the end of the current fiscal year, Wal-Mart expects that it will have opened 166 supercenters compared with 191 in fiscal year 2008.
Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division will have added 21 new, expanded and relocated clubs by the end of fiscal year 2009 compared to 25 in fiscal 2008.
Perhaps there is a message for smaller retailers in Wal-Mart’s plans: Continue with growth plans during the economic downturn but scale them back somewhat. Your growth plans may not include opening new stores, but could involve adding new lines or merchandise categories. A hint from Wal-Mart might be useful until the economy turns around.