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Wal-Mart will lay off 2,300 Sam's Club workers

By Elizabeth A. Harris

New York Times

LAST UPDATED: 10:32 a.m. HST, Jan 25, 2014

Wal-Mart announced Friday that about 2,300 Sam's Club employees would be laid off, the latest in a drumbeat of retail job cuts to start the new year.

Bill Durling, a Sam's Club spokesman, said the layoffs would target a combination of salaried assistant managers and hourly employees. Certain positions, like telephone attendants, will be eliminated.

"We realized we had pretty much the same club structure whether a club had $50 million in revenue or $100 million in revenue," Durling said of the distribution of assistant managers. "What we're trying to do is balance our resources."

Sam's Club has about 116,000 employees, Durling said, and the job cuts will affect about four employees a store. Employees will have 60 paid days to find another job at the company. If they are not successful, they will be eligible for severance.

Sam's Club will be opening at least 15 stores in the next fiscal year, which begins in February.

This week, Target announced it would cut approximately 475 jobs. The retailer, which employs 361,000 people, has been roiled by an enormous breach of customer data that has affected as many as 110 million people.

Just last week, J.C. Penney announced job cuts of its own, saying it would close 33 stores and cut about 2,000 jobs. This was widely seen as a symptom of that company's continued struggles, after several tumultuous years of flux in its management and its strategy.

Even Macy's, which has been performing better than many of its competitors in recently months, announced a round of layoffs at the beginning of the year. It said the company would lay off 2,500 employees, despite relatively solid holiday sales results.

Wal-Mart, the parent company of Sam's Club, has not yet released its holiday sales figures, but its recent financial performance has been underwhelming. Walmart beat analyst expectations in the third quarter, but the company trimmed its earnings forecast, saying continued economic difficulties among its core customers were affecting the retailer's bottom line.

Excluding fuel, sales at Sam's Club stores open for at least a year were up only 1.1 percent during the third quarter, the most recent period Wal-Mart has reported.

At Sam's Club's main rival, however, data for the holiday season showed that Costco enjoyed a healthy sales period.

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