I’ll confess upfront…I really wanted to be blown away.

Strong Points

This concept store is the first of it’s kind to be rolled out by SamsClub. It is located in the Dallas TX area. Overall it has a clean and upscale look both inside and out, you really feel great with the overall setup. 

I love that as a shopper I am in control of everything right from my phone. I am able to move at my own pace, employ whatever process I want and have essentially a low friction shopping encounter. 

The specialty areas of the store are nicely broken out which give them an intense focus and feeling of depth.

Merchandising of the store was super tight. The digital price tags were nice, although would have been better if brighter or LED.

There were tons of workers around the club and they were literally walking the aisles facing up product as fast as someone would get it out of order. 

As a disclosure, the store associates indicated the CEO and several executives were in the store the day before I was there so I assume it was looking the best it possibly could. 

Endcaps were organized with very little trade dress, just clear and clean. Many of them had flat screens above them, at the time there was no content. 

There was even some AR being used where the camera on your phone would show you some overlay graphics depending on where you were pointing your phone camera.While it wasn’t earthshaking it was good to see this being experimented with.

Opportunities

The main issue was the extremely limited assortment. In most categories you only had a single choice, either branded or private label. Surprising to me, Private Label seemed to be significantly under SKU’d vs what you would see in a traditional SamsClub.

As an example of this there were only like 14 HABA items and 5Home items, the Home items seemed to be seasonal/promotional in nature at the time.

Final Thoughts

While this is clearly a test, it was less that I hoped for and more than I expected. I was looking to see something designed to compete with Amazon Go or a stab at the future. I really thought we would see some of the JD.com technology brought over from China and deployed here. 

Overall the experience was good. The store is essentially an ALDI, but with Branded goods no just Private Label. This seems like a good strategy given the demographics they appear to be targeting based on the location of this club, but seems like it could be challenging with the severe SKU limitations. 

It will be interesting to see how they tweak the concept in the upcoming months from both an assortment and embedded technology viewpoint. More to come.