(UPDATED COVERAGE, 5 p.m.) Time will tell, as the expression goes, and less than three years has apparently been long enough for Wal-Mart officials to tell that their Marketside store concept isn’t working. The retailer’s four Marketside stores in Arizona will close Oct. 21.

Wal-Mart West media director Delia Garcia said the company "applied the lessons learned from the Marketside test to the Walmart Express format that was introduced earlier this year." She said customer feedback on the Express stores and Marketside-branded products has been positive.

"We plan to continue offering Marketside-branded goods at other formats," Garcia said. "For instance, Walmart Supercenters will continue to sell Marketside-branded produce, deli and bakery goods."

Wal-Mart opened the small-format Marketside stores in 2008 in four Arizona locations: Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe. Generally about 15,000 square feet, the stores emphasize fresh produce and prepared foods. At the time, Wal-Mart officials said they wanted to fill the niche between traditional grocery stores and convenience stores.

The Marketside stores were in head-to-head competition with Tesco’s Fresh & Easy stores, which are in Arizona, California and Nevada. In September, Tesco announced it would open six new Fresh & Easy stores in Sacramento, Calif., in addition to the 13 already in the state.

One Wal-Mart executive heavily involved in the Marketside concept is no longer with the company, having been hired in late September by Family Dollar Stores Inc. for a recently created position of senior vice president of food. According to a news release from Family Dollar, Trey Johnson “led the development of Wal-Mart’s Marketside format as its chief merchandising officer.”

News of the Marketside closings came just two days after an annual meeting where Wal-Mart officials announced a fiscal year 2013 global capital expenditure program of $13 billion $14 billion.

Also at their annual conference Oct. 12, company officials announced Wal-Mart will leverage operating expenses for the current fiscal year and plans to reduce operating expenses as a percentage of sales by more than 100 basis points over the next five years. They predicted 5% to 7% growth in sales for next year.