On the heels of a GOP-lauded announcement by Walmart that the retailer would be raising wages, instituting paid parental leave and offering certain long-serving employees bonuses up to $1,000, the company has quietly closed more than 60 Sam’s Club stores including the three in Alaska.
The move surprised employees and shoppers alike, who arrived at the two Anchorage and one Fairbanks locations to find signs that the stores were closed today for internal meetings. Even late into the afternoon, confused shoppers were still arriving at the Fairbanks Sam’s Club to locked doors.
The three stores are expected to close in the next two weeks, and according to the Fairbanks-based KTVF, the Fairbanks location employs about 150 people.
— Matt Buxton (@mattbuxton) January 11, 2018
According to Department of Labor and Workforce Development numbers, the Fairbanks Sam’s Club amounts to about 0.3 percent of the overall employment in the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
The closures are said to be “for business reasons,” according to KTVF. Other reporting suggests the move is part of the retailer’s shifting focus to online sellers (Walmart is the second largest online retailer after Amazon) and up to a dozen of the closed Sam’s Club locations will be converted to e-commerce hubs.
President Donald Trump was quick to take credit for the raises because of the recently approved tax plan, but the administration dodged questions about the simultaneous closures that will leave thousands without work throughout the country.
Asked about Walmart’s newly announced layoffs, Mnuchin helpfully explains that the Trump administration deserves credit for good things that happen but doesn’t deserve blame for any bad things pic.twitter.com/ZbPj6gnVO6
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 11, 2018
Additional reporting suggests that increasing wages and other employee-friendly policies have been a growing trend for the country’s largest employer (employing well more than 2 million people nationwide) in making investments in its employees for long-term improvements in customer experience and profit.
Axios reports that in an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said he was intrigued by the findings in researcher Zeynep Ton’s book “The Good Jobs Strategy,” which includes a detailed study about Trader Joe’s and how its “investments in better training and higher wages lead to bigger profits down the road.” The changes, the report suggests, were likely planned regardless of the tax changes.