06/25/2012 03:53 EDT | Updated 08/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Wal-Mart Canada to hire 4,000 new staff

Wal-Mart Canada plans to hire 4,000 new workers across the country in the current fiscal year as it expands its retail empire to include former Zellers store locations it acquired in 2011.

The Arkansas-based retail giant said it would open 47 hiring centres to help find staff for new, expanded, or relocated stores.

It said 900 workers have already been hired and another 3,100 other positions will be filled over the next seven months or so. By the end of January 2013, Wal-Mart says it will have 94,000 employees in Canada.

Last June, Wal-Mart bought the leasehold rights for 39 former Zellers stores in Canada. They will reopen as Wal-Mart stores later this year.

The chain said it plans to beef up hiring at its pharmacies.

"We have already hired many pharmacy associates that previously worked for Zellers and are looking to fill additional positions," said Wal-Mart Canada senior vice-president Eric Muir, in a statement.

Discount competition looms

News of the hiring blitz comes as rival discount retailer Target prepares to move aggressively into Canada. It wants to open as many as 135 stores across Canada next year and has purchased the leasehold interests to 189 sites that are currently operated by Zellers.

Wal-Mart operates more than 330 stores across Canada and has announced a $750-million program to fund 73 expansion or renovation projects across the country this year.

It established its Canadian network in 1994 when it bought 122 Woolco stores from Woolworth Canada. The retailer is known for its attempts to vigorously fight the unionization of its operations. In 2005, Wal-Mart closed a store in Jonquière, Que., on the same day Quebec announced an arbitrator would impose a collective agreement there. The company blamed the closure on the store's poor performance.

Wal-Mart stock rose 88 cents to close at $68.18 US Monday.