LUMBERTON — The 135,287-square-foot former Sam’s Club building on Dawn Drive has remained closed and unused since Jan. 26, but its future is not all dark.
Wal-Mart officials say potential buyers have nibbled but no bites. And there still exists the possibility that the building could become part of the retail giant’s cross-country system of 12 e-commerce warehouses, an option discussed as the store was being closed.
The first e-commerce warehouse was opened in June in Memphis, Tenn.
“We announced our first e-commerce fulfillment center in Memphis,” said Carrie McKnight, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart. “We’re testing and learning a lot from this facility and will accelerate the development of the e-commerce supply chain in the back half of the year.”
The other 11 warehouse sites have not been named, McKnight said. The plan is to locate them strategically for swifter delivery of merchandise that is sold online.
The Lumberton closure resulted in the loss of 150 jobs. Fifty jobs were created at the Memphis e-commerce warehouse, according to information released by Sam’s Club.
Sam’s Club closed 62 locations around the country because they were taking away sales from nearby Wal-Mart stores. The Lumberton Sam’s Club was within one mile of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Fayetteville is now the closest Sam’s Club location.
Local economic leaders have said the building’s location near Exit 22 on Interstate 95 lends itself to the creation of an excellent commercial distribution point. The exit is well-placed for economic growth, with high-end shopping and restaurants nearby.
Wal-Mart estimates that 59,000 vehicles per day pass the now closed Sam’s Club location.
Wayne Horne, Lumberton’s city manager, said a private firm that is under contract with the city is helping evaluate options for the building.
“First, a decision needs to be made to either re-purpose or sell the building,” Horne said.
The city wants to use the size of the building to bring another retailer to Lumberton, if the decision to sell is made, he said.
For the moment, a “For Sale” sign stands in front of the old building.
“There is interest in the building, but we won’t comment beyond that at this time,” Wal-Mart’s McKnight said.