The Sam's Club at Cortana Mall in Baton Rouge abruptly closed Thursday, one of 63 of the shopper's club stores being shut down across the country by Walmart Stores Inc.
Its the only closure in Louisiana.
The announcement came the same day Walmart announced that it is boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers and handing out one-time bonuses to others.
In a layoff notice sent to the Louisiana Workforce Commission Thursday, Kevin Rucker, a market manager, said 176 employees will be affected by the Cortana Sam's Club closing. Hourly employees will be terminated as of March 16, while store management will stay on through April 13. The letter does not give a reason for the closing and said it expects all of the layoffs to be permanent.
The store at 9598 Cortana Place is no longer listed on the Sam's Club website and the phone was not being answered. A message on the store's pharmacy number said it is operating under reduced hours and will close Jan. 26.
In a statement posted on the Sam's Club Twitter account, the company said: "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."
About 10 of the 63 Sam's Club stores will be repurposed into e-commerce distribution sites, an official told The Associated Press. The official said at least eight stores closed Thursday and the rest would shutter in the coming weeks.
The store closings were spread out nationwide and include locations in cities such as Houston; Seattle; Tampa, Florida; Indianapolis; San Antonio; Cincinnati; and Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee.
The Cortana Sam's Club opened in January 2012, replacing a store on Airline Highway.
Walmart had earlier cited tax legislation that will save it money for the planned wage increase, which benefits all hourly U.S. workers at its stores, including its remaining Sam's Clubs. The one-time bonus between $200 and $1,000 will be given to Walmart employees who won't receive a pay raise.
Walmart, which reported annual revenue of nearly $486 billion in the previous fiscal year, said the wage increases will cost it an additional $300 million in the next fiscal year. The bonuses will cost it about $400 million in this fiscal year, which ends on Jan. 31.
Rising wages reflect a generally tight labor market. The conversion of stores to e-commerce sites also illustrates how companies are trying to leverage their store locations to better compete against Amazon as shopping moves online.
"This is about the evolution of retail," said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. "The rise of e-commerce is leading to higher wages."
Large employers also have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.