Sam’s Club planning to build corporate childcare facility

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 8,775 views 

Bentonville retailer Sam’s Club is moving forward with its plan to provide corporate employees with a rare but sought-after perk.

The company plans to build for its working parents an employer-sponsored childcare facility near its Bentonville headquarters.

Sam’s Club, which operates as the warehouse club subsidiary of Walmart Inc., has filed a large-scale development plan for the project with the city. The planning commission is scheduled to consider the building, which is being called the Sam’s Club Kids’ Club, at its regular Dec. 4 meeting.

The corporate facility may be the first of its kind among Arkansas-based companies. Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said he could not think of another company in the state that has a similar center available for its working parents.

Sam’s Club wants to build its development on land it owns at 2300 S.E. S St., across from its 382,000-square-foot headquarters just off Moberly Lane, where approximately 1,500 Sam’s Club employees work. The childcare center would be available first to Sam’s Club corporate employees, but Walmart corporate employees would be to take any slots that aren’t filled. The facility will not be available to the general public.

“We’re excited to open the Kids’ Club for Sam’s Club associates and their kids in January 2020,” said Ashley Buchanan, Sam’s Club executive vice president and chief merchant. “Bringing this to life for our associates has been a personal passion of mine for 10 years. The joy and the peace of mind that parents have knowing that their kids are close is a big deal.”

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the cost of care and lack of access to quality childcare is forcing many parents to leave the workforce. A new survey released earlier this year by the foundation found one in three working parents have missed work due to lack of access to childcare over the past year, and they overwhelmingly agree they’d be more likely to invest in a company that invests in childcare.

The survey also reported 56% of working parents would view their employer more positively if they offered on-site childcare services. And 80% of working parents thought businesses should support and assist employees with young children.

“We’ve been listening to associates about what they want, and we’ve worked to remove pain points and create an experience that associates and their kids will love,” Buchanan said. “We’re serious about making Sam’s Club not only a good place to shop but a great place to work.”

The Bentonville facility is expected to be about 17,500 square feet and will hold about 170 children including infants, toddlers, 2-year-olds, pre-K and kindergarten prep. Enrollment will begin six months prior to opening.

Bright Horizons, a Watertown, Mass.-based corporate childcare provider, has been selected to manage the programs and provide staffing for the facility. According to its website, Bright Horizons is the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored childcare, early education and work/life solutions.

The Bentonville center’s hours of operations are expected to be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week, and parents will be able to get updates on their kids throughout the day via mobile app.

Sam’s Club did not disclose the total investment price for the facility, and the company is still finalizing details of the costs of services for employees.

The site where the Kids’ Club would be built is just north of another new project expected to have a significant impact on the company. Construction of a 139,000-square-foot Sam’s Club merchandise layout center has finished. It’s dubbed Studio 83 — a reference to Sam’s Club opening its first store in 1983 — and will officially open to Sam’s Club employees and suppliers Thursday (Nov. 29).

The new building replaces the existing 134,000-square-foot layout center in Springdale, inside a former Sam’s Club store at 2008 S. Thompson St. The new building has dedicated meeting space for team and supplier meetings, and perhaps more importantly, significantly cuts down travel time for buyers traveling between Sam’s Club headquarters and the Springdale layout center.

“I get inspired when I get around product, so having this conveniently located right across the street is great,” Jordan Gunter, a merchant in the kitchen electronics category, said in a video about the facility sent to Sam’s Club employees. “Time is money, and I have spent a lot of time driving back and forth from [the layout center in] Springdale.”

Shelley Latham, a senior merchant in the toy category, said she spends about 30% of her time at the Springdale layout center.

“Sixty-five hours a year is saved just by having the new building across the street,” she said in the video. “This is a game changer for us.”

The new layout center also has a mother’s room available for new moms.

Sam’s Club has operated from its current headquarters since early 2009. Walmart purchased the building, formerly known as the Superior Building, for $29.9 million in September 2008 to serve as the new headquarters for Sam’s Club and about 1,000 of its employees. They previously were housed in multiple buildings on Southwest Eighth Street, near the Walmart Home Office.

Walmart bought the building from developers Burt Hanna, owner of Hanna’s Candle and Greenland Composites, and David Slone, owner of Superior Auto Group in Fayetteville.

The four-story building was built in 2007 and most recently appraised this year for $46.9 million.