Technology is transforming Sam’s Club to benefit its members and employees alike, President and CEO John Furner said Wednesday during the Arkansas Economic Development Foundation’s annual luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
About 500 people, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson, other legislators and prominent business leaders, attended the event.
“Retail is being impacted and transformed in ways and at speeds that none of us have ever seen before,” Furner said. “As the change in technology continues to exponentially grow, we are finding all sorts of new ways to innovate and develop ways of working and products that make it easy for our members to shop but also make it easier for our associates to be productive and get information they need while working.”
Furner also said Sam’s Club has been successful recently due to its “keen focus” on a certain kind of member. The retail giant has been focused on “a family who lives in a suburb, has slightly elevated income, nationally, if you look at it, at about $75,000 to $125,000 a year,” he said.
Furner noted that Sam’s Club retail operations are break-even; the company’s profits come from membership fees and from other sources that depend on members visiting their stores.
So, “We are laser focused on quality, on value and exceeding our members’ expectations,” he said. Furner emphasized that Sam’s Club is working to eliminate friction for members and employees and save them time, one of the things they value most.
He played a brief video that showed how consumers can sign up digitally for Sam’s Club memberships, return items with a receipt on their phone and use the store’s mobile app to find what they need.
Furner also spoke about jobs.
“As I think about the future of our state, we care about the long-term viability of Arkansas. We’re looking to fill roles in the state in fields like data analytics, e-commerce, merchandising, supply chain, and, no surprise, people leadership,” he said.
Furner praised STEM education efforts across the state and the governor’s initiative that made coding classes available to high school students.
“When we look at jobs, we really think of jobs in three different ways. First, we see jobs that won’t change. The second is we see jobs today that we think will likely go away as technology develops, and, third, we know to think about jobs that haven’t yet been decided on and are going to come to fruition in the future,” Furner said.
In addition, without specifically citing the governor’s proposed $97 million tax package, he said, “changes in the tax code can help [Arkansas] grow and attract new businesses to the state just like our neighbors.” Furner added that all transactions, online and in brick-and-mortar stores, should be taxed the same, and all of the state’s regions should be working together instead of competing to attract new talent and businesses to Arkansas.