After a year of planning, prepping, organizing and building, Menard’s first location in Kentucky, a megastore encompassing more than 200,000 sq. ft., opened on May 1 in Owensboro, KY.  In this era of challenging financials across most retail markets, many big box and large format retailers have been looking to smaller footprints to both reduce real estate costs and to create a more efficient shopping experience for their customers.

Best Buy is a notable example of a big box retailer that is seeking to significantly reduce retailing square footage.  The company has proclaimed plans to reduce many of its stores by twenty percent.  Each of the top three office supply retailers Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax has proceeded with plans to scale down its largest store formats as a matter of financial and merchandising efficiencies.  All of these companies view the need to coordinate brick and mortar operations with their Internet capabilities as a great part of the incentive to cut back on retailing square footage.

In Canada, where the economy has avoided much of the suffering seen here in recent years, Canadian retailer Rona will close 10 of its warehouse-sized stores by the end of the year, shifting its focus to the opening of 25 smaller-format units. The new focus comes on the heels of a C$151 million loss posted for the company’s fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 25, 2011. This compares with a profit of C$20 million in the same period a year ago.  Cutting retailing space is the popular way to go in any clime.

Even Walmart has gotten into the non-big box mode.  Long envying the much smaller, neighborhood prototypes that dollar stores have been enjoying (not to mention recession resistant eye popping financials) Walmart decided to approach the dollar store frenzy with the 15,000 sq. ft. Walmart Express concept.  The company opened the first Express store last summer but recently seems to have put a virtual hold on new openings as management termed the project a “pilot”.  As to competing with dollar stores, the Express prototype thus far is about twice the size of most dollar stores and Express locations have yet to stake true neighborhood locations.  The total count for Walmart Express locations has held at just ten for several months.

Menard on the other hand is family held and privately owned.  Founder John Menard has always marched to his own beat and has invariably succeeded in growing his brand in a unique fashion.  The new Kentucky store offers a vast array of the usual fare including a broad range of name-brand appliances, pet products, lawn and garden supplies and includes a few aisles of convenience groceries as part of a one-stop shopping experience.

In this day and age many expect to see less retail space in new store openings.  Instead Menard offers a full service lumberyard in addition to 200,000 plus square feet of all that a home center warehouse would ever have hoped to offer.  Plus groceries.