US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores has said its expansion next year will continue to be driven by its supercenter format, the company’s most profitable format.

Wal-Mart said it plans to open between 220 and 230 supercenters in 2004, including 140 relocations and expansions of existing discount stores. Meanwhile, the company plans to open between 50 and 55 new discount stores and between 35 and 40 Sam’s Clubs, including around 20 relocations. Wal-Mart will also open 25 to 30 Neighborhood Market stores, reported Dow Jones News Service.

“We are satisfied with the returns on the Neighborhood Markets,” Wal-Mart president and chief executive H. Lee Scott was quoted by Dow Jones as saying. “But we have a higher – much higher – return on the supercenters, and we are going to spend our efforts in that area.”

By the end of this year, Wal-Mart supercenters will outnumber its discount stores for the first time, Scott said.

At the end of August, Wal-Mart operated 1,494 discount stores, 1,386 supercenters, 532 Sam’s Clubs and 56 Neighborhood Markets in the US.