Sam's Club reduces membership categories, offers more free shipping

The retailer says it will open its own first e-commerce fulfillment center in Memphis Tenn. and expects to ship its first package in the spring

In its struggles to adapt to a post-Amazon retail landscape, Walmart subsidiary Sam's Club is adopting an online membership model notably similar to Prime. Costco sells products through Kirkland, its in-house brand.

The company is also consolidating Sam's business and Sam's savings membership programs into one track, still priced at $45 a year, and extending the "add-on" ability so members can give memberships to family, friends or employees for $40.

In addition, Plus members will get cash rewards, early shopping opportunities and pharmacy discounts, said Jamie Iannone, executive vice president of membership and technology.

But the difference between Amazon and Sam's Club is that Sam's Club does not provide a set time frame products will be delivered for, as opposed to Amazon Prime who offers guaranteed two-day shipping.

The company will cut its membership levels to two levels from three previously. Some of those target customers own businesses and order products for their restaurants and stores.

The overhaul of Sam's Club membership structure comes in the wake Walmart's investment in an internal cloud network beginning to pay off.

"We've taken the a year ago to make sure we are making really clear, deliberate choices in a way that adds value for that core consumer", Furner said.

Officials of the chain, the membership warehouse store arm of Walmart, said Wednesday they are trying to boost value and convenience with the moves. "Whether it works or not, your guess is as good as mine".

The Plus level will come with free shipping on the vast majority.

Walmart Inc. is now hitting back at Amazon on the digital front by building its cloud network and expanding its ecommerce capabilities through its Sam's Club club-store division, Reuters has reported. Furner said Tuesday that the center should be ready to ship items by the end of March.

Read on to learn how Sam's Club is changing in 2018 to take on rivals Costco and Amazon... According to Reuters, other areas being considered for centers include Texas, central Florida, Southern California, the Chicago area, the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. On that day, some Sam's Club stores were closed permanently.

Furner says Sam's Club is "being more aggressive on direct-to-home than we've ever been" and that "it's really a big piece of our transformation".



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