Sam’s Clubs closures in Puerto Rico not related to Hurricane María
SAN JUAN – The decision to shutter three Sam’s Club locations and eliminate functions at the warehouse club’s headquarters in Puerto Rico were not directly related to Hurricane Maria’s devastating passage in September. It was a corporate move that has been ongoing since last year to make structural changes and strengthen the chain’s presence.
The information was confirmed by Daniel Morales, public relations spokesman for Walmart in the United States, after multiple attempts by Caribbean Business to investigate the decision that affects some 450 employees–not counting the managers who have concluded their duties, and will be transferred to corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
“This really has more to do with the fact that last year a new strategy was announced for the Sam’s Club business, and since then it has continued to make changes,” Morales said, “so the company continues to grow in a healthy manner. These changes are going to affect the communities and our associates but we [the employees] remain committed to the island as is Walmart [the company].”
Regarding the strategy to “better” position the brand, the Walmart spokesman said that at the moment, he does not have information about the existence of expansion plans in Puerto Rico. However, he announced that the hourly wage increase ($9 to $11) that will go into effect in mid-February, along with an increase in some fringe benefits, does apply to Puerto Rico.
Company data reflect that as of Sept. 11, 2017, the Walmart chain had 14,710 associates distributed among 48 units on the island, which include 19 Amigo supermarkets, five Walmarts, 13 Walmart Supercenters and 11 Sam’s Club stores.
“As part of this new strategy to make changes and better position the company, the purchasing team is the one that is going to move to Bentonville to simplify operations by eliminating duplicate work, specifically in purchasing, to produce better results,” clarified Morales, who could not offer details about the number of managers left behind.
The spokesman explained that associates who remain active until March 16 may request other positions within the company. However, he did not know how many vacancies currently exist on the island and said the data in their recruitment systems is constantly changing.
“Each case is different, but usually people who are in the company are given priority, but they have to apply, complete the application and interview for the position. I don’t want to imply that simply because you are an associate you will be given a job,” Morales said.
With the closures in Bayamón, Barceloneta and Humacao, which add to the one in Los Colobos in Carolina on July 19, Sam’s Club’s presence on the island has been reduced to seven locations. The membership club celebrates 25 years in Puerto Rico this year.
60 locations to close stateside
While the chain made its intention public to increase employee salaries, multiple social media postings pointed to a number of stateside store closings.
According to Business Insider, 60 Sam’s Club stores will be closed throughout various states. Some of the locations closed without prior notice to their employees. Others will cease operations in the coming weeks, Walmart admitted to the news outlet.
Social media users asked Sam’s Club for an explanation, with the company providing the following reply on Twitter:
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