Even though Aiken's first Sam's Club doesn't open for business until Oct. 3, the huge building was bustling with activity on Wednesday afternoon. Associates were putting up signs, assembling the equipment needed to display merchandise and performing other tasks.
“Everything is definitely on track as far as where we want to be right now,” said Gerald Raymond, who is the club manager for the local store.
The locations of the aisles have been marked off, the big pallet-style rack systems are in place and the products that the new Sam's Club will sell are scheduled to arrive soon.
Raymond took time off from supervising his staff's preparation for this fall's launch to provide a quick tour of the store, which covers more than 139,000 square feet. It is located at 220 Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Route 1).
“One of the cool things about this Sam's Club is that it has convertible cash registers,” Raymond said. “If a cashier leaves for a break, we can convert them so they can be used by our members for self-checkout. That way every register will be operational at all times. The concept is to try to get our members in and out fast. We know time is of the essence for folks coming in to shop.”
The new Sam's Club also will have a Hearing Center, which is not a feature in all of the chain's stores.
“We will have either a certified hearing specialist or a licensed audiologist,” said Andy Papier, who is an optical and hearing district manager for Sam's Club. “The center will be open pretty much Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily,” Papier said.
We'll provide hearing tests for free. If someone finds out that they have a hearing loss, we can provide them with some options and, of course, they can make the choices.”
Aiken's first Sam's Club also has a type of floral case that isn't being used yet in most Sam's Clubs, according to Raymond. The case has a door on its side to a compartment where flowers can be stored until the ones on display are sold.
“That will allow us to refresh the merchandise quicker,” Raymond said.
The new store's energy-saving efforts will include freezers and coolers with LED lighting. There also will be LED lighting in the offices and break room.
Sam's Club's Fax 'n' Pull and Click 'n' Pull services will be available locally.
“Members can fax us an order or go online and place an order,” Raymond said. “We'll pull that order and have it ready for them in 24 hours.”
Raymond previously has served as the club manager for Sam's Clubs in Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg.
“This is first brand new Sam's Club that I've gotten to run,” he said. “It's been a great experience, and I've definitely learned a lot.”
Roughly 175 associates already have been hired to work at the Aiken Sam's Club, but “we're still looking for qualified candidates to fill positions with us,” Raymond said.
Anyone interested in employment opportunities can apply at the Aiken Sam's Club Membership and Hiring Center at 156 University Parkway (Suites 101-103) or online at www.samsclub.yourcareergenie.com.
The new Sam's Club will have a kiosk where people can apply for jobs while visiting the store.
“We're really excited about the opportunity to serve Sam's Club members in Aiken; it's been a long time in coming,” Raymond said. “We're also excited about the support we've gotten from the Chamber of Commerce (Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce) and local folks in the last several months. They helped us with the grand opening of our Membership and Hiring Center, and organizations here like the Tri-Development Center (of Aiken County) have given us the opportunity to volunteer our time.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.