Sam’s Club was founded by Sam Walton, the same man who founded Walmart 21 years earlier. This means that Sam’s Club has always been a Walmart-owned company ever since its inception in 1983.
As of 2023, Walmart also owns a long list of other retailers, primarily e-commerce sites. In addition to Walmart Neighborhood Market, Walmart Auto Care Center, and Walmart.com, Walmart owns twenty other brand names.
- Sam’s Club
- Seiyu Group
- Bare Necessities
- Best Price Modern Wholesale
- CARHCO (Central American Retail Holding Company)
Prior to its closure in June 2020, e-commerce site Jet.com was also owned by Walmart.
Sam’s Club Company History
The first Sam’s Club location opened in 1983 in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Four years later, Sam Walton began acquiring dozens of other retail stores and rebranding them as Sam’s Club.
Sam’s Club is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart.
As of January 2023, Sam’s Club operates approximately 600 warehouse club locations across 44 states in the US as well as in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Internationally, Sam’s Clubs can be found in Mexico, China, and Brazil.
The only states where Sam’s Club does not operate are Alaska, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, as well as Washington, D.C. Some of these states used to have Sam’s Club locations that have since been shut down.
Walmart Stores Outperform Sam’s Club
Over the past 15 years, Walmart has been renegotiating the Sam’s Club model and approach as stores have consistently underperformed.
In January 2010, on the heels of the recession, Sam’s Club laid off nearly 12,000 workers, translating to about 10% of its total workforce. In 2014, the company cut over 2,000 more jobs at underperforming warehouse locations across the country. All Sam’s Club Canada locations were shut down prior to 2010.
Still struggling to dial in a sustainable business model, Sam’s Club closed 63 warehouse locations in 2018.
As far as we can tell, no new Sam’s Club locations have opened in the US in over a decade.
Differences Between Walmart & Sam’s Club
Despite sharing a parent company, Walmart and Sam’s Club offer very different shopping experiences. They differ in nearly every way, from prices to locations to shopper demographics.
Here, we will list the main ways that Walmart and Sam’s Club differ.
1) Walmart Has More Locations
As the largest retail brand in the world, Walmart has thousands upon thousands of stores worldwide, while Sam’s Club only has about 600, spread over four countries.
So, when it comes to choosing a store for its convenience and ease of access, Walmart is the obvious choice.
2) Walmart Has Longer Store Hours
Most Sam’s Club locations are only open from 10 AM to 8 PM, while Walmart typically stays open from 6 AM to 11 PM. Store hours may vary slightly by location, but generally speaking, Walmart is open more often than Sam’s Club.
3) Sam’s Club Has Lower Prices
According to Fool.com, Sam’s Club is the more economical option when it comes to choosing between the two stores.
In fact, they state that “on a per-item basis, [Sam’s Club] cost[s] around 25% less than Walmart and almost 10% less than Costco.”
The types of products available at each store vary as well, with Sam’s Club being more popular for bulk groceries and household items while Walmart is popular across a wide range of categories including clothing, electronics, and more.
4) Sam’s Club Is A Members-Only Store
The main factor that keeps a lot of shoppers from choosing Sam’s Club is that they are a members-only club. Memberships start at $45 per year, and without one, you can’t even get in the door let alone purchase anything.
That said, once you’ve bought a membership, you get access to the everyday 25% savings we mentioned above. So, members find it worth it at the end of the day.
Even though Walmart is not a members-only store, you can still purchase a Walmart membership to get perks and benefits as a Walmart shopper. As of January 2023, Walmart offers two membership levels–Walmart Plus and Walmart Plus InHome. Walmart Plus membership starts at $12.95 per month or $98 per year.
5) Their Discounts and Sales Work Differently
Deals and savings at Sam’s Club primarily come in the form of everyday savings, since their prices are always so low.
But shoppers also get access to Sam’s Club’s generous Instant Savings Program. All Sam’s Club members qualify for instant savings on a wide variety of items during Sam’s Club Instant Savings events throughout the year. Each sales event lasts between three and four weeks.
Walmart, on the other hand, takes a more conventional approach to sales and savings. They allow customers to avail discounts using coupons, and they also frequently place items on clearance, yielding marked-down prices.
Walmart also offers savings to customers during sporadic “rollback” sales. During these sales, prices on certain items are temporarily reduced to promote the sale of a certain item or to clear out excess inventory. To learn more about Walmart Rollback, check out our post here.
Why Is Walmart More Popular?
Despite being more expensive than Sam’s Club, Walmart has consistently outperformed its wholesaling counterpart over the years.
One possible reason is that Sam’s Club’s main competitor is not actually Walmart–it’s Costco, the most popular members-only wholesaler in the world. Most shoppers interested in a members-only wholesale shopping experience end up choosing Costco for its abundance of locations, organic options, and locally sourced products.
Sam’s Club is a hard sell for the Walmart shopper demographic precisely because it requires a membership fee. Stores like this perform much better among high income bracket communities. However, most Sam’s Club locations are in states with lower per capita income statistics.
This article from Mashed goes into detail about how and why Sam’s Club is targeting the wrong demographics, and how changing their approach could save their business.
Is Sam’s Club a publicly traded company?
No. Sam’s Club is not an independent company. It is a subsidiary of Walmart Inc. which trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Can you work at Sam’s Club if you quit at Walmart?
Yes. Sam’s Club does not have a policy against hiring former Walmart employees, even if you quit or were fired.
Can you use your Sam’s Club membership at Walmart?
No. Sam’s Club membership is only valid at Sam’s Club and on SamsClub.com.