Madison Sam's Club to close as part of nationwide downsizing - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison Sam's Club to close as part of nationwide downsizing

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison's Sam's Club will be closing permanently at the end of the month, according to a Walmart spokesperson.

The store was closed Thursday to tell employees about the impending closure.

"That was a meeting we had in the club to inform our associates. That's not an easy conversation to have. Obviously, it's an emotional conversation," said Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield. "And we wanted to then give our associates the day off.”

Located at 7050 Watts Road, the Madison store is scheduled to reopen Friday close permanently on Jan. 26, 2018. Wisconsin is also losing the Sam's store in West Allis. Those two are among 63 stores that ABC reports are closing nationwide.

For man Madisonians, the store was a staple for their families. 

"Since they've been open, I've been coming here and shopping. It's convenient, you know," said Sonya Thomas, a Sam's Club member who tried shopping at the Madison location on Thursday. 

It was a store where many could buy in bulk. 

"Things for like the bathroom and fruits and vegetables and stuff like that," said Jeff Frye, who was seen driving off after trying to shop at the store. 

Instead of the doors sliding open, customers were greeted with a sign from staff notifying them the store was closed on Thursday. 

The Sam's Club in Janesville will remain open, Hatfield says, adding that the company hopes associates will consider transferring to another Sam's Club store or Walmart location. Walmart owns and operates Sam's Club.

The company said the local closure is part of an effort to downsize the brand. It's the latest brick and mortar store to be hit hard as consumers turn more frequently to online shopping. 

"Our members in Madison are shopping at our clubs but they are also shopping online more than they were," said Anne Hatfield, a spokeswoman for Walmart.

But some customers are still in favor of their physical store. 

"It's a shame. It's a nice place to go and generally some pretty good values there," said Fyre. 

Meanwhile, John Dipko, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, said they have reached out to regional workforce partners to make rapid response services available to affected workers.

"Our Division of Employment and Training is reaching out to regional workforce partners to coordinate job service assistance as appropriate," Dipko said.

"It's important to remember that the state's employment outlook is bright as Wisconsin's unemployment rate is at a near-record low of 3.2 percent, the number of employed Wisconsinites is at a record high and today there are over 83,000 job postings on JobCenterofWisconsin.com, including thousands in the region," Dipko added.

Dipko said the department did not receive advance notice of the closure and layoffs.

Wisconsin's Business Closing (Plant Closing) and Mass Layoff Law provides that, with certain exceptions, businesses employing 50 or more persons in the State of Wisconsin must provide written notice 60 days before implementing a "business closing (plant closing)" or "mass layoff" in the state.

The law states that affected employees, collective bargaining unit representatives, and municipal officials who believe they did not receive a required notice may file a complaint with DWD's Equal Rights Division, according to Dipko. The Division would then investigate to determine whether a violation occurred, based on all relevant facts.

Looking to the future, Hatfield said that Sam's Club started looking in the fall at ways to better position the business for the future.

“The Sam's e-commerce business is really booming and so what we're doing is making sure we have the right mix of stores and online,” she says. “We know what our customers need. And how much our customers.. where do they want clubs and how much they're shopping online. And just how much more they want that convenience of online. And really they want a mix. Our members in Madison are shopping at our clubs but they are also shopping online more than they were.“

Hatfield says Sam's Club plans to add 5 to 7 distribution centers to handle online sales deliveries. They currently have just two. 

Sam's also has promised to refund memberships to those customers affected by the closures. Request a refund online HERE.

Amazon's Prime membership continues to take up a greater share of subscription shopping services, according to financial services firm Cowen and Company.

As far back as 2016, the percentage of US households that only pay for Prime membership more than doubled over the previous four years, from 7.1% in 2013 to 16.2% in 2016.

In the same time span, households that only use either Costco (from 14.9% to 9.8%) and Sam's Club (from 16.9% to 9.7%) dropped noticeably, according to BusinessInsider.com.

Sam's Club announced the closures on Twitter, writing, "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."

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