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BENTONVILLE, AR-The largest retailer in the world will add 600 stores to its portfolio globally next year, adding 60 million sf of unit space. The total is slightly down in the US from what executives have planned to open this year, while store openings will increase a bit internationally.

Same-store sales were up 1.5% year over year during the company’s third quarter, which ended Oct. 31. Wal-Mart discount stores rose 1.5% during the period, while Sam’s Club warehouse units were up 1.8%.

Executives say that consumers are still curbing their spending habits due to high gasoline and energy prices. This year also did not compare favorably to last year due to high sales in 2005 after people restocked during hurricane season. “We really underestimated the positive impact of hurricane sales last year,” said John Menzer, the company’s vice chairman, during its quarterly conference call.

Net sales for the quarter were just over $83.5 billion, rising 12%. Income was just under $2.6 billion, up 7.1%.

Internationally, Wal-Mart’s best-performing countries sales wise were Argentina, Brazil, China and Mexico, management says. Additionally, they say that the lagging UK market has recently improved, while its Asda chain there has gained ground.

Commenting on the holiday season, H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s president and chief executive officer, says the company will refer to the period as Christmas, forgoing the use of holidays, after receiving customer feedback on the issue. Additionally, commenting on the recent election in which the Democrats took control of Congress, he says, “Wal-Mart has, for a long period of time, been a bipartisan company.”

Wal-Mart will open 21 new US stores this month. The company operates about 6,500 units worldwide.

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