JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

While industry sources say Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering Northeast Florida for five to nine Walmart Neighborhood Markets, the company won’t confirm nor deny the speculation, the Financial News and Daily Record reports.

Sources say Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is considering several closed Food Lion stores and other vacant retail sites.

Food Lion closed 20 Northeast Florida stores early this year and shopping center owners are seeking new users for those that remain vacant.

“We have no announced plans and it’s our company policy not to comment on rumors or speculation,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz.

“In general, Wal-Mart is interested in growth. Certainly Florida and Jacksonville are of interest,” Wertz said Tuesday. “But we have no specific plans to announce.”

At average employment of 95 workers per store, the Neighborhood Markets could generate 475 to 855 jobs.

Wal-Mart uses the “Walmart” name style for its stores. The Walmart Neighborhood Markets are typically 42,000 square feet in size, a quarter of the size of the average 185,000-square-foot Supercenter, according to Walmart statistics.

In 2005, Wal-Mart attempted to develop a Neighborhood Market along Atlantic Boulevard near Bartram Road, but ended its efforts after neighborhood opposition and land-use challenges. The land was later developed as apartments.

The Shelby Report of the Southeast supermarket trade publication reported in its June issue that Wal-Mart’s 60 stores hold a market share of 29.3 percent among grocers and wholesalers in the North Florida/South Georgia market, comprising an area from Jacksonville south to Daytona Beach, west to Tallahassee and north to Brunswick and Albany, Ga.

The Shelby Report said Publix Super Markets Inc. holds the No. 2 ranking with 106 stores and a 28.6 percent market share. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. was No. 3 with 92 stores and 17.4 percent of the market.

Wal-Mart described its U.S. holdings on its website and in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing:

• Walmart Discount Stores. The original concept, the first discount store opened in 1962. There are 624 stores, which employ about 225 people each. The discount stores average about 108,000 square feet. The stores feature general merchandise, family apparel, electronics, toys, lawn and garden items, jewelry, automotive products, home furnishings, hardware, sporting goods, health and beauty products, housewares and more.

• Walmart Supercenters. Developed in 1988, there are 3,029 supercenters, which employ more than 350 people each. Supercenters average 185,000 square feet. Most are open 24 hours. In addition to groceries, they typically include household and family supplies, electronics, sporting goods, toys, lawn and garden supplies, clothing, a vision center, tire and lube services, a restaurant, a portrait studio and photo center, a pharmacy, a health clinic, a hair salon, a bank and employment services.

• Walmart Neighborhood Markets. First opened in 1998, there are 199 markets, which employ about 95 people each, and typically are 42,000 square feet in size. They offer groceries, general merchandise, deli foods, a bakery, a photo center and a pharmacy.

• Walmart Express Stores. The first two express stores opened in June 2011 in Northwest Arkansas. The stores offer groceries and general merchandise, including pharmacies. The test stores average 15,000 square feet in size. They were designed for customers in rural and urban areas where shoppers might not have access to larger stores.

• Sam’s Club members-only warehouse club. The first Sam’s Club opened in 1983. There are 611 locations nationwide. They average about 175 employees each and typically are 132,000 square feet in size. The clubs sell general merchandise and large-volume items, including groceries.

For fiscal 2012, which ended Jan. 31, Wal-Mart operated 287 stores in Florida, consisting of 189 supercenters, 23 discount stores, 31 neighborhood markets and other small formats and 44 Sam’s Clubs.

Wal-Mart reported that its U.S. net sales rose to $264.2 billion in fiscal 2012, up from $260.3 billion in 2011 and $259.9 billion in 2010. For 2012, Sam’s Club net sales were more than $53 billion.

Global net sales were almost $444 billion in fiscal 2012.

In a May 23 presentation at the Morgan Stanley Retail Conference, reported by Thomson Reuters, Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon talked about growth in the company.

According to a transcript from Thomas Reuters, here are some of Simon’s comments:

“Our plans this year are to open 100-plus new Supercenters. That is new, expansion and relocation, so it is not all new square footage. And that is well under way.

“The second quarter will also see a fundamental change in our opening strategy. I want to talk to you about that. We will open between 40 and 50 new units. And for the first time, 16 Neighborhood Markets in one quarter, on our way to even more.

“Let me talk a little bit about Neighborhood Markets and what that format has been doing to us. As you all know, it is about a 40,000-square-foot format that we have been running for about 10 years. … We are very optimistic and comfortable about the returns approaching Supercenter returns. And the comp sales that we’ve been able to deliver from this format have been among the strongest that we’ve had in the business, and very consistent throughout the pattern.

“The thing that makes these really cool … you do grocery shopping, but if you want a television or a futon, you can go to Walmart.com and have it sent to the store and picked up the next time you are in the store.”

Simon referred to six Neighborhood Markets that opened in the first quarter in Florida, Texas and Oklahoma City.

“The second quarter will mark our entrance into some new markets,” he said, although Jacksonville was not mentioned in the transcript.

Simon, referring to a map, said that at the end of the fiscal year, in nine months, the company would add 81 Neighborhood Markets to the list of 160 that existed at the time of his remarks. “So effectively what we will be doing is adding 50 percent to the fleet in Neighborhood Markets, and a very robust pipeline exists today going forward.”