Get your hair trimmed and styled. Apply for a loan. Leave the car for an oil change, and drop off the kids in the game room. Stock up on socks, detergent, printer cartridges, milk, ground beef, bananas, paint and mulch. You could, in one trip, get a rotisserie chicken for dinner, some extra tennis balls and a rifle.
It's one-stop shopping the Wal-Mart way, at "supercenters" up to twice the size of a typical Wal-Mart.
For the world's largest retailer, it's also the future. With $165 billion in annual sales, 4,100 stores and more than a million workers, Wal-Mart has reached unparalleled dominance in the history of retailing. Its march across the planet is far from over.
Supercenters, which add a supermarket to the regular discount store, figure heavily in Wal-Mart's growth plans. While the Bentonville, Ark., company has been opening about 170 new stores each year, the chain recently announced its biggest expansion ever - retail space next year totaling 40 million square feet at a cost of $8.5 billion. Besides building 40 discount stores, Wal-Mart will open as many as 180 supercenters, more than in any single year. The company will either convert or relocate existing discount stores to create up to 110 of those supercenters. The rest will be built in new markets, said Tom Williams, spokesman for Wal-Mart.
"As huge as they are, you'd think how can they keep growing?" said Sally H. Wallick, a retail analyst at Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. in Baltimore. "But the reality is, they are preparing themselves in very concrete ways to continue to grow 10 years from now."
The discount giant is hoping that bargain-conscious America - and the rest of the world - will eventually see its supercenters as the only stores time-starved consumers could ever need.
Betty Hilker sees it that way. Three years ago, when the Norrisville, Harford County, resident first stopped in the new Wal-Mart across the Pennsylvania line, she saw, to her surprise, a supermarket.
Like other supercenters, the Shrewsbury, Pa., store has grocery aisles, a bakery, meat counter, deli and dairy and produce sections, while racks in the wide aisles across the warehouse-style building burst with apparel, shoes and sporting and home goods. Wal-Mart leases the front of the store to a bank and hair salon and also has a cafe, a tire and lube center and a garden center.
"I saw the groceries and the prices, and I said that's it," said Hilker, 70, who liked the idea of finding everything under one roof. "It's clean, and everyone is so friendly."
Maryland, home to 28 Wal-Marts, has three supercenters, in Hagerstown, Fruitland and Pocomoke City. The company is reportedly eyeing potential superstore sites - mostly in less heavily populated areas for now.
"We're not saying where the specific areas are today," Williams said. "As we get to the various communities, as we come closer and plans solidify, we'll talk about it quite freely."
To build or convert a store, Wal-Mart needs enough land and the proper zoning. In some areas where it can't build a supercenter, Wal-Mart hopes to fill the gap with a Neighborhood Market, the retail giant's version of a grocery store and a 2-year-old concept. Thirteen Neighborhood Markets now operate in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Plans call for 15 to 20 more next year.
There's still more. The growth blueprint calls for up to 50 more Sam's Club member warehouses, up to 110 international stores in existing markets - Mexico, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Brazil, Puerto Rico, China, South Korea and Argentina - three general merchandise distribution centers, two food distribution centers and two fresh-food distribution centers.
The supercenter idea evolved even as Wal-Mart was steadily outrunning competitors and helping to crush some big chains to the point of bankruptcy. Wal-Mart realized it would reach a limit in sales at any given "big box" store, especially those that had been around a while. Looking for even more productive stores, former Chief Executive Officer David Glass, with the support of company founder Sam Walton, decided the future was food.
After a fleeting experiment with a "hypermarket" in 1987, which sold produce, Wal-Mart expanded the idea to include a full supermarket, building the first supercenter in Missouri in 1988.
Because the 835 supercenters have experienced "strong consumer acceptance and financial results," Wal-Mart said it plans to speed up the division's growth.
As for the timing, Williams would say only that "we really continue to work very hard at our growth, while running our existing business as efficiently and profitably as possible. Sam Walton started that whole impetus, the way he expanded from the very early days," piloting his twin-engine plane in search of new store sites. "Company leaders worked with him, and are just following through."