While many grocery and drug retailers shudder at the thought of competing with category-killing Wal-Mart, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens isn’t scared. In fact, Walgreens embraces the behemoth, according to David Bernauer, Walgreen Co.’s new president and CEO.

Walgreens has opened dozens of freestanding stores on Wal-Mart outparcels, Bernauer told attendees at the 2002 ICSC Open Air Centers Conference in Chicago this week. "We do well in Wal-Mart pads," he said. "We don’t consider them competition because our customers are convenience driven. At Walgreens, shoppers can be in and out in six minutes. Try doing that in a 200,000-sq.-ft. Wal-Mart. It’ll take you that long to get into the store."

Neither Wal-Mart’s booming expansion plans nor its rising share of prescription sales is a concern for Walgreens, he said. "The more Wal-Mart builds, the better for us because every store they open kills two of our smaller competitors."

Bernauer said Walgreens — whose October comp store sales are up 8.2% — plans to open 250 new stores next year, most of them freestanding.