Wal-Mart was quick to make a media splash with the news that it was raising the starting hourly wages to $11/hour, expanding employee benefits and offering worker bonuses of up to $1000 in response to the Trump tax cuts; it was far more covert, however, with the news that on the very same day it was also closing hundreds of Sam's Club stores nationwide and laying off thousands of workers according to numerous media reports.
Jessica Buckner, an audit team lead at a Sam's Club location in Anchorage, told local TV station KTVA that all Alaska stores are closing as part of a larger downsizing across the U.S. "From what I heard, there's over 260 stores that have been closed down," she said according to CBS News.
The wholesale clubs' official closure date is Jan. 26, Buckner said.
Shortly after, the company issued a statement, stating that the number of stores for closure is somewhat lower, at 63, if still a sizable number. That compares with a total of five wholesale club stores the company has closed since fiscal 2013, securities filings show.
Ten to 12 of the closed stores could be converted to e-commerce facilities, the spokesperson said. The news is consistent with Sam's Club's ongoing plans to optimize its stores to fulfill more online orders and keep pace with internet retailers such as Boxed.
The closures also affect stores in New Jersey, upstate New York, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. In some locations, per social media, people showed up to work only to be told that their location was closing, with nearly no advance notice.
Sam’s Club shutdown? Employees at this S Loop store tell me they showed up to work and were told store is closed effective today. Sign on door says same thing. Hearing other stores also affected. Waiting on answers from parent company, Walmart #khou11 pic.twitter.com/RtbY7EhiIK— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) January 11, 2018
The chain, which competes with Costco , has more than 650 locations employing more than 100,000 people, with an average of 175 employees per store, according to the company.
No formal announcement was posted Thursday morning by Sam's Club, but the company acknowledged the closures on Twitter with a general statement.
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.— Sam's Club (@SamsClub) January 11, 2018
The company drew criticism from people on Twitter who objected to the lack of notice about the closings.
My problem isn't with you closing stores. It's closing stores without telling the employees. How would you, as a social media rep, like to come in to work tomorrow and find out you were fired?— YourMCAdmin (@YourMCAdmin) January 11, 2018
And yes, we will repeat it because it bears repeating: the closures come on the same day that Walmart announced it was raising its minimum wage to $11 per hour.
Same day Walmart raises worker wage to $11 "due to tax bill", Sam's Club announces 419 Hoosier workers are losing their jobs.— Stephen Terrell (@StephenTerrell) January 11, 2018
Meanwhile, Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom calculated that Wal-Mart's wage investment is just 15% of the tax gain. According to Haskett, "Wal-Mart may see tax rate of ~23% in FY19 (year ended Jan. 2019) vs current 32%, which would provide $2b windfall". As such, he adds, the "labor investment of ~$300m represents just 15% of total; assumes a similar amount will go toward investments in price."
What will the company use the rest of the money on: why higher dividend payments and accelerated buybacks of course.
Oh, and free advertising: "with WMT being first retailer "out of the gate," it should get some “free media.”