Last month, when Cristina Ampil went to Sam’s Club for a vaccine, she got more than just the COVID-19 booster she had planned for. She and her family spent an extra hour browsing the Westchester, New York big-box store, stocking up on toilet paper, apparel and snacks. They even had lunch. All told, Ampil spent around $200, most of which was on impulse purchases that wouldn’t normally make the cut for her on a typical Sam’s run.
“We had the luxury of just browsing,” said the economist. “On a normal shopping trip, it’s very targeted, we’re there, we need these things, then we get out, but this time we had an hour wait and we were able to browse and get lunch.”
Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, which sells bulk-sized products at reduced prices for an annual club fee, is offering a 24-hour “guest membership” to anyone who gets their COVID vaccine at a Sam’s location. It is one of a host of brands marketing incentives like temporary memberships, coupons and prizes as part of a COVID shot.
Ampil is already a member of Sam’s, but her vaccine-inspired shopping trip is an example of how retailers are getting a sales boost from the boosters, which are driving demand in the heart of the holiday shopping season. In recent weeks, new federal guidance around booster shots and vaccines for children has millions of consumers rushing to book second-or-third appointments for themselves and their kids. Stores like Sam’s, Kroger and Target are taking advantage with discount programs and other perks, which experts say not only spurs sales with front-of-store merchandise, but also engenders customer loyalty and repeat visits.
“In some ways, although the health crisis is something that is not helpful to anyone, it is very useful and it is the gift that keeps on giving as far as some of these retailers are concerned,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. “The key thing is how you capitalize on that foot traffic,” he added. “Most people start off with the view they’ll go in get the vaccination and come out again—they’re not really going for pleasurable reasons to have a browse and again, it’s the job of the retailer to convert them once they’re in there.”