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DETROIT-Nine Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, all owned by Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Inc., will open or are opening this year in southeast Michigan, though the massive retailer still seems shy about opening in the city of Detroit.

The stores are opening in malls and strip centers in populated areas metro Detroit. The new stores are part of the company’s campaign to expand in the Detroit area, said Brian Hooper, real estate manager for the company’s north-Midwest area. Wal-Mart Inc. has opened a limited number of stores in southeast Michigan for the last 10 years, he said.

“Now, we want to get up to three to four additional units each year in that area,” Hooper said. “We want to keep the newer pace and be consistent.”

He told GlobeSt.com that the company did not enter the area in force because of the high concentration of competition. “Meijer stores have a large hold on the area, as well as Target and Kmart,” Hooper said. “We haven’t been able to grab into Detroit as well as other markets.”

However, the company decided to step up its push in the Motor City, Hooper said. One reason is that Kmart, headquartered in Troy, MI, is in the throes of bankruptcy and has been closing stores nationwide. The city of Detroit, however, has still presented a problem, Hooper said.

“We continue to look at various sites in Detroit, and they are still possibilities,” he explained. “We just aren’t ready to make any commitments yet.”

This non-committal attitude also includes a mixed-use site owned by Mike Curis. Home Depot had planned on moving in with his loft and retail development, but the home improvement big box chain ultimately pulled out, saying there’s not enough development to justify a new store in the city.

Hooper said his firm is also monitoring the level of development in Detroit, particularly around that site. “We still have an interest with being in the city,” Hooper said.

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