Bigger turkeys are back as Sam’s Club bets on larger holiday gatherings

From larger turkeys and taller Christmas trees to more toy brands, Walmart-owned Sam’s Club is betting consumers will go big this year with holiday celebrations.

The membership-only warehouse club said Friday that it had huge gatherings and pent-up demand in mind as it selected and ordered holiday merchandise. It doubled the size of popular holiday side dishes, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, from two pounds to four pounds. It developed desserts meant to please a crowd, such as Christmas-themed cupcakes and brownie-topped cheesecake. And it launched a new service that will drop 6- and 12-bottle packs of wine at customers’ doors to help them stock up for a party.

Sam’s Club Chief Member Officer Tony Rogers said in surveys and during focus groups on Zoom, members told the company that they plan to get together with family and friends and enjoy aspects of the holiday season that they have missed.

“People have just felt like they got last Christmas stolen away from them and they’re eager to get back to some of those traditions with their family and their friends,” he said. “Our member is telling us that this year they are going to get back to that like never before.”

Plus, he said, the typical Sam’s Club customers is the type of person who coaches Little League games, hosts parties and teaches Sunday school — and tends to get into the season, from stocking up on snacks to decorating and picking out perfect gifts.

The official public health guidance about holiday gatherings is still to come. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put up recommendations on its website, but then pulled down the safety tips. Officials told NBC the agency would share its guidance soon. The material that had been published suggested opening doors and windows or using a fan to add ventilation if an event has to be indoors. It also encouraged people to consider virtual gatherings instead of getting together with people from other households.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and professor at the University of Toronto, said Covid-19 vaccinations will “provide a significant layer of protection to any family gathering” this holiday season. But he said people will have to think about who will be attending. A frail, elderly person or a child who has not yet gotten the vaccine may be more at risk for infection.

“People should really think about what their potential exposures are, who’s going to be there, who’s at risk, who’s vaccinated and plan accordingly,” he said.

New traditions mix with the old
The pandemic did inspire Sam’s to make some new additions to its holiday line-up. For instance, Chief Merchant Megan Crozier said its bakery will sell do-it-yourself kits to decorate cupcakes and cookies. Sam’s Club began selling the kits in the spring of 2020 as families searched for kid-friendly activities to do while stuck at home.

Crozier said Sam’s Club is “bringing back the big turkeys” after selling lots of smaller ones last year. It will sell the same size range as last year — between 10 and 24 pounds — but Sam’s stocked up more on the heavier turkeys of 18 pounds or more based on insights about how its members plan to celebrate. It also ordered lamb, rib roasts and salmon because people experimented with different Thanksgiving and Christmas menus last year, she said.

Members will find a wider selection as the retailer has added more than 25 new toy brands, including Rainbow High and Segway. Sam’s also ordered more matching family and mommy-and-me pajama sets this year after those were such a big seller last year, she said.

“Cozy and comfy is here to stay,” Crozier said.

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