COLUMBIA, S.C. — The $400 million AllSouth Credit Union has landed a Wal-Mart footprint after years of sticking to a traditional brick and mortar strategy.

The Columbia CU said the chance to open as many as seven in-store outlets during 2007-08 across the state was too good to pass up and so it decided to alter its expansion stance for a “more retail” approach.

The first new facility was opened May 9 in Batesburg-Leesville in a new Supercenter to be followed later in the year with branches during the summer and fall in Sumter, Camden and Lexington.

AllSouth, which has a field of membership covering eight South Carolina counties, was approached by Financial Supermarkets Inc. “at the end of last year about our interest” in opening in Wal-Mart, said Audrey Brown, vice president of mar- keting for the $400 million CU. SI of Cornelia, Ga. has long served as an intermediary for the retailing giant servicing both bank and CU clients.

“This is all new territory for us but we’re excited about opening four stores this year and let me say Wal-Mart management couldn’t have been more professional and cooperative in dealing with us,” said Brown. The remaining three stores with locations to be announced are on the drawing boards for 2008.

With 14 branches, most of them stand-alone, AllSouth maintains the in-store facilities will be less expensive to operate and be open longer to accommodate the retailer traffic.

Brown said the Wal-Mart units “are a departure for us and we are admittedly a bit anxious.” Still the potential for growth is important, she said noting banks had previously occupied some of the Wal-Mart sites, but “pulled out and we’re not sure of their reasons.”

“It is a good fit for us since it allows us to plug a few holes in our branching environment,” said Brown.