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Sam’s Club overhauls membership structure

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Free shipping offered for premium members

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Sam’s Club is offering free shipping for premium members and simplifying its membership terms.

Starting today, the retailer will give free shipping on nearly all online orders for Plus members, who pay $100 a year and already receive such perks as early shopping hours, cash rewards of $10 for every $500 spent, and pharmacy and optical discounts.

Sam’s Club also is eliminating the distinction between business and non-business members, and reducing the number of membership options to two from three. Sam’s Plus will still carry a $100 annual fee, while the Business and Savings plans will convert to Sam’s Club memberships with an annual fee of $45.

The moves are aimed at increasing memberships at a time when membership fees represent the bulk of its operating profits.

“Last fall, we announced we’re serious about creating a new Sam’s Club, with a strong membership proposition and a simplified offer from top to bottom,” said Jamie Iannone, chief executive officer, Sam’sClub.com and executive vice president of membership and technology at the Walmart unit. “Our focus has always been to provide irresistible value, amazing items, real convenience and simple choices to our members every day, and today we’re taking that a step further.”

Sam’s Club currently has about 47 million members in the United States. Although the business has improved in recent quarters, Sam’s Club abruptly announced last month it would close 63 stores, converting some of them into distribution centers.


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