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MCKINNEY, TX-Wal-Mart has opened here what it bills as an “experimental” Supercenter. The 206,000-sf unit is a relocation from another area of town and is 86,000 sf larger than the original store.

The largest retailer in the world refers to the Supercenter as experimental because of environmental initiatives at the unit. Wal-Mart workers will try to reduce the amount of energy and natural resources used at the store. For example, extra cooking oil used at the store could be mixed with oil from the automotive department to heat the Supercenter.

As part of the unit’s construction, the company has designed a system of shrubs, grasses and rocks to prevent runoff, called a bioswale; constructed a wind turbine that will reduce the electricity used by 5%; and added solar panels, among other features. Wal-Mart executives say they plan to share the results of their environmental-friendly findings at the store with the rest of the retail real estate industry.

The experimental store comes at a time when Wal-Mart has tried to clean up its public image. H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s president and CEO has said he would make defending the company from detractors more of a full-time job. As of late, the company has come under fire not only for its expansion plans, but has also faced a sexual-harassment lawsuit, as well as other woes. “When you know that somebody is spending $25 million against you just to stop you, someone needs to speak up for Wal-Mart,” he said during the company’s annual investor meeting last month.

Wal-Mart executives said they could add as many as 4,000 more Supercenters. The company operates just over 1,800 in the US. The company is on track to open 240 to 250 of the stores, which combine groceries with general merchandise, this year.

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