Sam's Club closing 63 stores - Wal-Mart increasing its minimum wage to $11 from $9
Sam's Club closing dozens of stores
Charisse Jones, USA TODAY Published 2:14 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2018 | Updated 4:21 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2018
Walmart has announced it is raising its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11 and Sam's Club is set to close a series of clubs across the United States. USA TODAY
Sam's Club, the membership warehouse owned by retail giant Walmart, is shutting down or converting 63 stores, a Walmart official confirmed Thursday.
Of those locations, about 50 will be going out of business for good. Roughly 10 of those locations are closing their doors as soon as Thursday, while the remainder will be shuttered over the next three to four weeks, the Walmart official said.
Additionally, about 10 to 12 Sam's Club stores are slated to be closed temporarily as the retailer converts them to regional distributional centers to help ramp up its ability to fulfill online purchases. While those stores will reopen in a new role, workers previously employed at those locations are not necessarily guaranteed one of the new positions.
In a note, Sam's Club president and CEO John Furner said that a review found stores that were hindering business at other locations, or operating in areas that had not seen the population growth that was expected.
"We’ve decided to right-size our fleet and better align our locations with our strategy,'' he wrote. "We will be closing some clubs, and we notified them today. We’ll convert some of them into eCommerce fulfillment centers - to better serve the growing number of members shopping with us online and continue scaling the SamsClub.com business.''
News of the closures began to slowly trickle out Thursday. Notices filed with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development revealed that three Sam's Club stores in Indiana would be shutting down, while news outlets across the U.S. began reporting possible closures in cities from Memphis to Atlanta to Houston.
The company would not provide a list of the specific locations that will be closed or the number of employees that would be impacted, but public filings revealed that at least 1,733 workers will be affected.
There are 419 employees at the three Indiana locations, according to filings required by the U.S. Department of Labor when there are significant layoffs.
Public filings also revealed locations in other parts of the U.S. that would be shutting their doors. In Illinois, seven Sam's Clubs employing 1,138 people were slated to close Jan. 26, The notifications said that the termination of hourly workers would be effective as of March 16, and for managers as of April 13.
In Louisiana, a Sam's Club in Baton Rouge that employs 176 workers was scheduled to close on Thursday, with hourly staff being terminated as of March 16 and managers as of April 13.
Furner said that the company would try "to place as many associates as possible in new roles at nearby locations.''
The entire retail landscape has been upended by the rise of Amazon and the growing shift by consumers to shopping online. Though warehouse-based retailers like Sam's Club and Costco have a steady revenue stream fueled by members fees, they are also having to adjust to an environment in which customers can buy groceries, electronics and other products from a growing array of e-commerce and brick and mortar sellers.
While Walmart reported that Sam's Club's sales rose 4.4% in the most recently completed quarter, Furner says that the store closures will free up resources that can be focused on bolstering Sam's Club's website as well as its in-store technology. There are also plans to improve the club's fresh food offerings, overall product selection and its private label Member's Mark.
Rival Costco has seen significant online sales growth in the wake of improvements to its site, the launch of two new delivery options, and introduction of an option for shoppers to buy items like computers and jewelry online and then pick them up at a store. Last month, Costco reported that its online sales had leaped 43.5% in the most recent quarter.
The Sam's Club closures were announced the same day that Walmart said it would lift the hourly minimum wage in the U.S. to $11 and give out bonuses of up to $1,000.
Contributing: Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY and Justin L. Mack, Indy Star