Wal-Mart Exploring Opportunities in Russia

Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is "exploring opportunities in Russia," the head of its international operations said on Friday, according to a Reuters report.

Mike Duke made the comments at Wal-Mart's annual shareholders meeting, where the retailer touted the growth potential of its international business

Wal-Mart currently operates in 13 markets outside of the continental United States, including Japan and China. It also has established a joint venture in India.

Duke's remarks are the latest in a series of statements indicating the company's interest in expanding into Russia. In May, Duke said Wal-Mart was taking "active steps" to research Russia and nearby countries in Eastern Europe.

CEO Lee Scott has also voiced his interest in Russia. In October, at the company's analyst meeting, Scott said Wal-Mart hoped to be in that country "at some point in the future."

On Thursday, Wal-Mart also said it saw potential for expansion in Asia beyond the countries where it currently operates.

Vicente Trius, the head of Wal-Mart Asia, told reporters on Thursday that Southeast Asia as a whole "would be an area that has potential" for Wal-Mart, the report said.

In other news, Wal-Mart said on Thursday that it is scaling back its assortment of products to ensure shoppers can more easily navigate its aisles. The remarks were made during a media tour of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rogers, Ark.

On the tour, Wal-Mart executives discussed how the chain is paring down its cluttered clothing department, getting rid of poorly selling home items and clearing out its hardlines department, which includes automotive merchandise and sporting goods, the report said. The executives made an effort to point out the open, wider aisles in the stores, according to the report.

"We've made incredible progress [in improving our store experience],” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of its U.S division.

In its apparel department, the retailer is reducing the number of styles it offers, part of a wider plan to clean up the look of its stores and make shopping easier, while expanding key growing programs. In other changes, the chain is using lower display fixtures in its stores so walls of racks towering over customer heads do not block their vision.

This week, Wal-Mart said it had completed the nationwide redesign of its consumer-electronics departments.

The redesigned departments include more space for consumers to test video games, an expanded selection of GPS navigation products, a new display center for computers and a bigger selection of high-definition TVs.

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