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Sam’s advances reflect its focus on members

Sam's Club

Table of Contents

Sam’s Club has changed considerably in 40 years. As the special section elsewhere in this issue amply illustrates, the retailer, a division of Walmart, has found numerous ways to enhance the membership warehouse club format, while adhering to the fundamentals of the concept.

When Sam’s made its debut In 1983, the bare-bones clubs sold a broad range of merchandise, mostly on pallets, targeted at small businesses and other customers, and it was willing to sacrifice amenities to keep prices as low as possible. The value-orientation has been a constant, but in recent years the chain has done much to augment the member experience.

Sam’s is nearing completion of a program to upgrade its nearly 600 locations across the U.S. Dubbed bold and blue, the initiative features an enhanced design and decor package that makes the clubs more inviting, functional and easier to shop.

The emphasis on convenience is further evinced by a range of technology-driven services, including Scan & Go, which enables members to avoid checkout lines; Scan & Ship, for making purchases in the club and having them delivered to the home; and Curbside Pickup. Newly constructed clubs, which average 160,000 square feet, include dedicated space for fulfilling omnichannel orders.

All of the improvements were made with the member and the associate in mind. The more efficient Sam’s becomes operationally, the more time the people who staff the clubs can devote to delivering personalized service.

The membership warehouse club operator is intent on building on the momentum it has achieved as an innovator within the broader Walmart enterprise. To that end, Sam’s is constructing a freestanding Design Studio at its headquarters in Bentonville. When finished sometime next spring, the structure will provide a conducive environment for developing new ideas that benefit members and associates, and, at the same time, move the business forward.

Sam’s has made progress in so many areas foreign to the original conception of a warehouse club by staying member obsessed. Kath McLay, chief executive officer for almost four years before recently moving to Walmart International, motivated her colleagues at Sam’s by convincing them that the retailer would prosper by always focusing on the member, an assertion borne out by the retailer’s recent track record.

Early indications are that McLay’s successor, Chris Nicholas, previously chief operating officer at Walmart U.S., shares that view. He can be expected to keep Sam’s on a fast-growth track.