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Forbes reports that Walmart executive vice president of finance Charles Holley Jr. told a Bank of America consumer conference that the company has “widened the competitive moat” that stands between it and other retailers both inside and outside the US.

Holley said at the conference that the recession has put Walmart in a strong competitive position, that it will remain the low-price leader, and expects to take advantage of unspecified new business opportunities over the next few months.

According to the story, “Wal-Mart plans to keep pushing low-price products, Holley said, adding that it has 40 percent more discounts than a year ago. The company is also relaunching this month a store-brand food line called Great Value, which will have better packaging and products.

“Internationally, Holley said that while Japan's economy is struggling, Wal-Mart's customer count is up and same-store sales are positive. He added that the price gap between Wal-Mart and its competitors is increasing.”

One of the alligators in the moat, according to a separate story in the Financial Times, could be Supermercado de Walmart, a new format being opened by the company in Arizona and Texas this summer. The new format consists of remodeled Neighborhood Market stores of about 39,000 square feet that will contain Hispanic products, will be located in Hispanic neighborhoods, will hire bilingual staffers, and aggressively target the fastest growing demographic in the US.

KC's View:
Here at MNB, we’ve been saying for months that Walmart is in market share warp drive these days, looking to use the recession as a tool to create as many unassailable advantages for itself as it can…so that when the recession ends, as it inevitably will, it will be that much harder for the competition to catch up.

The good news for competitors, of course, is that there is no such thing as an unassailable advantage. If Walmart sees the current economic crisis as an opportunity generator, other retailers must think the same way.

One quick note about Supermercado de Walmart. When Michael Sansolo and I were in Phoenix last year, we visited a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market that clearly was in a Hispanic area, but that seemed to reflect very little effort to customize the approach and selection to local folks. Tesco may have fixed this problem, but it also may be that the lack of smart targeting illustrated to Walmart that there was a big opportunity there. (Not that Walmart usually need other companies to demonstrate what the opportunities are…)