Just announced: 3 big changes coming to Sam's Club in 2018


The membership will still be priced at $100 annually, and depending on where a member lives, it aims to deliver products to the majority of customers within one or two days, executives said on a conference call to announce the changes.

The retailer also is lowering membership for additional Club memberships to $40, it stated.

Hoping to better compete with arch-rival Costco Wholesale (cost) and Amazon.com, Sam's Club said on Wednesday that it's now offering free shipping for many items to its premium members as part of a restructuring to its membership programs.

Cars slowly drive by this closed Sam's Club in Sacramento, Calif.

Sam's Club has announced that it is "simplifying" its membership structure by reducing the number of types to two: Club for $45 a year, a membership level formerly known as Sam's Savings, and Plus for $100.

More: Sam's Club closing stores across the U.S.

Effective immediately, anyone with a Sam's Plus membership will receive free shipping on most items sold online, including almost every Member's Mark item - and there's no minimum purchase.

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Furner says Sam's Club is "being more aggressive on direct to home than we have ever been" and it is really a big transformation.

Plus members will continue to receive other benefits like cash rewards, early shopping hours, and pharmacy and optical discounts. While executives gave few details on the exact locations of those centers, aside from the first slated to open in Memphis, more details will emerge within the next six weeks.

Brian Yarbrough, a retail analyst with Edward Jones, said narrowing its focus makes sense as Sam's Club tries to increase sales growth and keep pace with Costco.

The changes come a month after Sam's Club said it would shut or convert 63 stores.

The Memphis center will be instructive for Sam's Club as it builds out an e-commerce supply chain to new areas, according to the company.

The new membership terms contrast with sister chain Walmart, which offers free two-day shipping on orders of $35 or more with no membership requirement.

The retailer, which now relies on Walmart's supply chain network to make online order deliveries, recently said it will open its own first e-commerce fulfillment center in Memphis, Tennessee, and expects to ship its first package in the spring. Other regions being considered for fulfillment centers include Texas, Central Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, Southern California, Chicagoland, and the Northeast.