Sam’s Club Uses AI to Keep Items in Stock

Jacqueline Barba
Digital Editor
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a wooden table topped with different types of food

Sam’s Club is using artificial intelligence to ensure pies and other items are in stock at its 600-some clubs through the holiday season.

The Walmart-owned warehouse chain leverages its machine learning forecasting, which considers things like weather, trends, events, holidays, shelf life and proper substitutions down to the hour and club level.

“This helps us know how many pies to order from our suppliers, and when, what and how many to ship to our clubs,” Vinod Bidarkoppa, senior vice president, chief technology officer, Sam’s Club, said in a recent media release.

The retailer’s AI-embedded Fresh Sales App uses AI to predict (hourly in some cases) how many pies need to be stocked to keep up with member demand and reduce food waste. 

Sam’s Club is also using machine learning to forecast each item at its club, including gifts and decor items. These forecasts also ensure inventory at the retailer’s fulfillment centers arrives with enough lead time to ship items to the clubs.

In anticipation of truck deliveries, Sam’s Club’s autonomous floor scrubbers, which are now chain-wide, scan club shelves with mounted cameras and sends “hot item” alerts to the backroom so associates can prioritize the receipt of items most at risk of selling out. Once the truck arrives, the retailer’s ClubIQ tool prioritizes the order associates need to unload the pies and other items from the truck. The system also analyzes historical item sales behavior for upcoming holiday events and tells the associates which items to put on the floor first based on the popularity of that item.

“This intelligence allows us to proactively manage our clubs in an efficient manner. Inventory Scan assures items are available and easy to locate in the club, freeing up time for our associates to focus on members and the shopping experience they deserve,” Todd Garner, vice president of in club product management at Sam’s Club, said in the release.

Sam’s Club uses this data, which continuously learns from member behaviors and trends to better anticipate demand, to feed back into its models, such as having the right number of pumpkin pies in clubs for during the holiday season.