The wholesale club locations closing span from Alaska to Puerto Rico. Some of the shuttered stores will be converted into e-commerce fulfillment facilities, the company said.
The news came on the same day the big-box retailer announced it would be boosting its starting wage hourly employees and handing out bonuses, among other benefits, following the passage of new tax legislation.
As local media outlets began to report on the store closures, though, disgruntled shoppers took to sites like Twitter and Facebook to learn what was going on. Many customers were seen asking for refunds on memberships, which cost $45 annually, and others were concerned about where they would pick up prescriptions.
Late in the day Thursday, Sam’s Club CEO John Furner wrote in a company-wide email:
“Transforming our business means managing our real estate portfolio — we need a strong fleet of clubs that are fit for the future. After a thorough review, it became clear we had built clubs in some locations that impacted other clubs, and where population had not grown as anticipated. We’ve decided to right-size our fleet and better align our locations with our strategy. … We will work to place as many associates as possible in new roles at nearby locations, and we’ll provide them with support, resources, and severance pay to those eligible.”
Walmart said it would book a charge of 14 cents per share related to the closures, which would show up mainly in its fourth-quarter results. The company said it would share more details when it reports earnings on Feb. 20.
Walmart “is taking prudent steps to prepare for the next generation of retail warfare, one in which speed will be king and delivery will be judged by hours and not days,” Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen wrote in a note to clients Friday morning.
“We believe Sam’s Club leadership will continue to execute against other initiatives … as management noted that while results have improved over the last several quarters, the retailer can do better as Sam’s Club has under-performed club peers,” Chen said. Those competitors include Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Boxed.
Moving forward, many analysts anticipate Sam’s Club will focus on growing its e-commerce business, amassing a higher-quality grocery selection, marketing its private labels and finding new members.
Furner has said the company is looking to tap into households that make between $75,000 to $125,000 annually.