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Sam’s Club To Demo CE; Walmart Reorganizes

Sam’s Club is rolling out a new in-store demonstration and sales program for consumer electronics, wellness products and consumables.

Sam’s Club president/CEO Brian Cornell said the chain tapped Shopper Events, a third-party marketing company, to develop an enhanced “Tastes and Tips” sampling program that will include integrated demo stations, signage, and trained, uniformed staffers who will also sell the products they show.

“Our demos can be a competitive advantage, and we want to take this member experience to the next level,” Cornell told store associates in a notice.

The program replaces about 10,000 in-store sampling personnel, or about 9 percent of the chain’s workforce.

Sam’s Club said outsourcing the function is less a cost-cutting move than an effort to improve its product-sampling program. Shopper Events already manages the “Bright Ideas” in-store demos for its Walmart sister division, Cornell said, and the terminated employees, most of whom were part-time workers, will be able to reapply for an equal number of new positions with the marketing firm.

Sam’s Club is also cutting about 1,200 new business membership reps, the retailer indicated, and recently announced plans to close 10 underperforming stores.

In other news, Walmart has re-organized into three distinctive geographic business units (GBUs) — Walmart West, Walmart South and Walmart North — and consolidated its logistics, store operations and real estate operating divisions under a unified leadership team.

In addition, Walmart’s previously standalone e-commerce business has been integrated into the company’s retail operations under chief merchandising officer John Fleming.

The chain has also created a new store merchandising execution group that will design merchandise strategies and executable customer-focused programs for each GBU. The new organization was created to connect merchandising more closely to retail operations and customers, according to COO Bill Simon.

In addition, to support an increased focus on brand strategy, Andrea Thomas is moving from her marketing role in private brand management to an expanded merchandising role as brand merchandising senior VP for home, hardlines and entertainment, which includes CE. She reports to Fleming.