By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – On the heels of Thursday’s announcement that Walmart would boost the starting pay and provide additional bonuses and benefits packages for its employees, Sam’s Club, a division of the Walmart brand, quietly shuttered dozens of stores the same day.
While attempts to contact the company’s corporate communications department to determine the fate of the Cookeville store were unsuccessful, when asked if the Cookeville store would close, an associate there told the UCBJ, “Not that we’re aware of.”
At this time, no official list of affected stores has been made available by the company. Instead, consumers are being directed to the company’s Club Finder webpage to determine the status of their preferred stores – all of the affected stores have reportedly been removed from the company’s website. The Cookeville store is still listed on the company’s store roster, appearing to have avoided the list of closing stores.
“If it’s on there, it will not be closing,” the company stated in a Tweet.
Sam’s Club fielded numerous consumer concerns aired via Twitter Thursday, responding with the following message:
“After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”
The company later issued an official release that reads, in part:
“Transforming our business means managing our real estate portfolio and Walmart needs a strong fleet of Sam’s Clubs that are fit for the future,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Sam’s Club, in a statement released late Thursday evening. “We know this is difficult news for our associates and we are working to place as many of them as possible at nearby locations. Our focus today has been on those associates and their communities, and communicating with them.”
A total of 63 Sam’s Club locations will close while roughly 12 of those stores will be converted into eCommerce fulfillment centers. A Memphis store will be converted into one of the first fulfillment centers. Pharmacies at affected stores will reportedly remain open for at least two weeks, allowing the company to work with each state’s Board of Pharmacy to navigate the transition.
Affected customers seeking a refund for their membership are being directed to a special promotional page where they can opt to receive a free three-month extension of their membership or receive a full refund via e-gift card or check.
Meanwhile, employees affected by the closures are expected to receive severance packages.
“Walmart will provide support and resources to those associates who are affected, including the bonus announced today and 60 days of pay, as well as severance to those eligible,” the release said.