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MINNEAPOLIS-Wal-Mart, long expected to enter the Twin Cities grocery store market, has plans to open its combination discount-and-supermarket stores in three west suburbs–Maple Grove, Elk River and Shakopee–in 2006. The discounter plans to expand existing discount stores into the combination supercenters.

More than half of Wal-Mart’s 3,000 stores are supercenters. Among its competitors in the Twin Cities market are Cub Foods, Rainbow Foods, SuperTarget, Festival Foods and Kowalski’s.

A Wal-Mart store set to open next year in Woodbury appears to be the prime target for expansion east of St. Paul. That store has city clearance to expand into a supercenter.

Wal-Mart will supply its supercenters in the Twin Cities from a new food distribution center in Tomah, WI. Wal-Mart now has 34 namesake regular discount stores plus 13 supercenters in Minnesota. The retailer already has supercenters in outer ring suburbs and cities such as Buffalo, Cambridge and Red Wing, and it recently broke ground on a new supercenter in Monticello that should open by late next year.

Target Corp., meanwhile, already has 11 of its SuperTarget combined grocery-general merchandise stores in Minnesota with plans to expand Target discount sites in Roseville and West St. Paul into SuperTargets.

The retailer plans to expand its stores in Elk River and Maple Grove from 140,000 sf to 200,000 sf, and its 149,000-sf Shakopee location that opened last year to 210,000 sf. The new supercenter in Monticello, a bedroom community off Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, will be 203,000 sf.

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