In another sign the country is getting back to normal, Sam’s Club has resumed its sampling and demo program, Taste & Tips. Officially relaunching this week, Taste & Tips allows members to sample food and review products when they visit the club. Initially, Taste & Tips will take place on the weekends and in limited quantities, using new safety measures such as sealed samples.
Sampling programs have traditionally been a key element of the warehouse club experience to generate trial of products. Retailers were forced to eliminate product sampling in March 2020, however, out of concern for the health and safety of members and associates during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with almost half of Americans fully vaccinated, product sampling is making a triumphant comeback to warehouse clubs. In addition to Sam’s Club, Costco Wholesale Corp. said during its May 27 earnings call that it will start a phased return to full sampling.
Meanwhile, the Sam’s Club sampling program will be available at all of its nearly 600 clubs in the United States.
“Over the past year, our members’ shopping behaviors have evolved,” said Megan Crozier, chief merchandising officer of Sam’s Club. “Today, more than ever, members want to do more than just shop when they come to our clubs – they want to have an experience. In addition to the return of Taste & Tips, we’ve planned new, immersive sampling experiences that add even more excitement to our clubs.”
For example, the retailer is introducing its first-ever Member’s Mark Summer Eats Food Truck. The event will take sampling out of the club and into the parking lot with a food truck serving up Member’s Mark foods, like Member's Mark Angus Beef Cheeseburgers, Member’s Mark Baked Beans with Brisket and Member’s Mark Double Dipped Mini Ice Cream Bars. The truck will tour the central United States and stop at select clubs until mid-July.
Additionally, Sam’s Club is upping its sampling game by testing new ways to sample items, such as roaming events that bring sampling directly to members as they check out, visit the member services desk or use Sam’s Club Curbside Pickup.
Sam’s Club recently reported that its first-quarter total sales increased 10.1% to $16.7 billion, with the gain balanced between 2.2% growth in total transactions and 4.9% growth in transaction size. Operating income increased 16.4% to $575 million. Most notably, Sam’s Club said that its membership income increased 12.7%, a figure that bodes well for future sales growth, as the division's total member count is now at an all-time high.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, Sam's Club parent company, operates more than 10,000 stores under 48 banners in 24 countries, and e-commerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Sam's Club ranks No. 9 and Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco is No. 4 on the list.