The Big Sign A Sam's Club Product Is Going To Be Discontinued

A big complaint people often have with grocery stores is the sudden disappearance of much-loved products. While some stores take the time to gently explain that limited shelf space means underselling items must be removed to allow newer products a chance to shine, it doesn't make it any easier or less frustrating if you've grown attached to a certain product. But you may be able to at least get a warning. While Costco shoppers have learned that an asterisk on price tags is bad news, it turns out those Sam's Club shelf tags will also alert you if a product isn't coming back.

If you see the letter "C" on an item's tag, the item is almost certainly canceled, meaning that, once all of that product is gone, it will not return to Sam's Club. A formed Sam's Club employee has confirmed that this is true and that the C can be found on either the lower left or top right of the tag (via Reader's Digest). For frequent customers, knowing Sam's Club's secret codes can not only help save you money but also serve as a reminder to stock up on your favorites when you see the dreaded "C" appear on the product's tag.

Items will go on clearance before they disappear

For those who notice the "C" on the tag of their favorite product, there is a silver lining: discounts. If there's still a lot of product on the shelf and the store is eager to get rid of it, it will very likely end up on clearance.

If you're still angry that you can't find that specific product at any stores, you could go to Sam's Club's social media and complain. The warehouse giant often makes a point to respond to customers, among whom asking about discontinued items is a common theme. Sam's Club appears to be more willing to consider bringing back items, telling multiple commenters on a Facebook post to fill out an online form about discontinued items they miss. The link takes you to Sam's Club's Request an Item page, which does note that Sam's Club isn't committing to bringing back a given product, but will consider it.  But, perhaps if enough people complain, it's possible that the item could be brought back.

Items are discontinued if they're not selling fast

For those wondering why something they view as an essential item could possibly get banished, it's all about space and sales. With store models like those of Trader Joe's, Costco, and Sam's Club, demand is king. In 2019, speaking at an event, Sam's Club grocery and beverage executive Clint Gill remarked that the store carried between 6,000 and 7,000 products, but "we are working to downsize the assortment. We are not [actively] adding new items at this time" (via Talk Business & Politics).

Compared to a grocery store, which typically has around 31,000 items in its inventory, shelving space at a Sam's Club is prime real estate. If something isn't selling well, it simply has to go. "If you don't have high volume or growing volume, the costs of producing and handling a slow-selling product are such that it doesn't make business sense," Matt Sloan, Trader Joe's vice president of marketing remarked on a Trader Joe's podcast.

The supplier may have raised the price

Another reason Sam's Club may choose to discontinue an item is if a supplier has raised the price or won't abide by the store's low price model. "Every item needs to earn its place in the club," Sam's Club CEO Kath McLay said at the Aspen ESG Summit. "So you're really looking for great quality and disruptive value, and it has to meet both of those kind of criteria." McLay's words fall in line with Gill's words at the WalStreet Speaker Series, in which he indicated that suppliers that do best at Sam's Club are those that ship their items in full pallets, have better packaging, and have a lot of savings when it comes to pricing.

Simply put, people who shop at Sam's Club and similar stores are looking to save money by buying in bulk, or just by paying less than they would at another store. If a store sells something overly pricey, that may be regarded as a betrayal of the company's values or its mission statement. 

All todl, there's probably a very practical reason your favorite salsa, chips, or soda went away. All you can do next is look for that "C", and stock up before it disappears for good.