Walmart has announced that it’s abruptly closing 63 Sam’s Club stores across the United States, which will affect thousands of employees and customers.
On Thursday, the company confirmed to Business Insider that they were closing numerous locations of the popular membership wholesale club. While some of the stores were already closed as of Thursday, some would remain open for several weeks.
According to the outlet, employees were notified of the decision on Thursday in an email from Sam’s Club CEO John Furner.
“Transforming our business means managing our real estate portfolio — we need a strong fleet of clubs that are fit for the future,” Furner wrote. “After a thorough review, it became clear we had built clubs in some locations that impacted other clubs, and where population had not grown as anticipated.”
“We will be closing some clubs, and we notified them today,” he added, noting that some of the locations would be converted into “eCommerce fulfillment centers — to better serve the growing number of members shopping with us online and continue scaling the SamsClub.com business.”
“We know these decisions impact people we care about deeply — our associates and their families, as well as our members and their neighbors — and we did not make them lightly,” he continued. “We will work to place as many associates as possible in new roles at nearby locations, and we’ll provide them with support, resources, and severance pay to those eligible.”
Sam’s Club also responded to the news on social media adding that “closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.”
Walmart did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
After a thorough review of our existing portfolio, we’ve decided to close a series of clubs and better align our locations with our strategy. Closing clubs is never easy and we’re committed to working with impacted members and associates through this transition.
— Sam's Club (@SamsClub) January 11, 2018
According to KHOU, several Sam’s Club employees in Houston, Texas did not learn of the news until they showed up for work on Thursday. Business Insider reported that some employees were turned away by police officers.
While most of the Sam’s Club locations would remain permanently closed, according to CNBC, there are currently 10 to 12 stores being considered as possible locations for e-commerce facilities.
Employees from stores that are reopened as e-commerce facilities will be given the opportunity to re-apply for positions, Business Insider reported, according to a Walmart official. The outlet also noted that while Sam’s Club officials have not commented on how many employees will be losing their jobs, each Sam’s Club warehouse employs about 175 people, which means more than 11,000 could be impacted by the mass closing.
The reported closures affect stores in Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico.
Employees impacted by the closures will be paid by the company for the next 60 days and will also be eligible to apply for transfers to other Sam’s Club or Walmart locations, according to KHOU.
This announcement was made public the same day Walmart announced it would be increasing starting hourly wages to $11, expanding employee benefits and issuing bonuses of up to $1,000.