Sam’s Club re­vamps mem­ber­ships

Re­tailer will also of­fer more free ship­ping.

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Chris Wood­yard

A month after an­nounc­ing a wave of store clos­ings, Sam’s Club is re­vamp­ing it­self to re­duce its mem­ber­ship cat­e­gories, of­fer more free ship­ping and make pur­chas­ing eas­ier and faster.

Of­fi­cials of the chain, the mem­ber­ship ware­house store arm of Wal­mart, said Wed­nes­day they are try­ing to boost value and con­ve­nience with the moves. But Sam’s Club is yet an­other chain that is un­der pres­sure not only from ri­vals such as mem­ber­ship ware­house gi­ant Costco, but Ama­zon and its abil­ity to de­liver just about any goods to homes at low cost.

“Eas­ier and faster” is how Sam’s Club CEO John Furner de­scribes the goal.

Sam’s Club is re­duc­ing its mem­ber­ship cat­e­gories to two — a Club level for $45 a year and a Plus level for $100. The Plus level will come with free ship­ping on the vast ma­jor­ity, some 95%, of the items that Sam’s Club says it sells on its web­site with no min­i­mum or­der, of­fi­cials said.

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.”

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

The changes come a month after Sam’s Club said it would shut or con­vert 63 stores. At the time, Sam’s Club of­fi­cials at­trib­uted the need to close the stores to a shift to­ward more on­line or­ders, re­duced pop­u­la­tion growth in some ar­eas and many com­pet­ing lo­ca­tions.

Sam’s Club is re­duc­ing its mem­ber­ship cat­e­gories to two: a Club level for $45 a year and a Plus level for $100. JOHN G. MABANGLO/EPA-EFE

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