In a private sector version of a stimulus package, Wal-Mart stores CEO Bill Simon announced a plan to buy $50 billion worth of American-made goods over the next 10 years. Among the products to bought from domestic sources are basic apparel and sporting goods.
The world’s biggest retailer will also hire 100,000 U.S. military veterans over the next five years, said Simon.
“Veterans have a record of performance under pressure,” said Simon in a speech announcing Wal-Mart’s new directions. “They’re quick learners and they’re team players.”
As for buying from domestic manufacturers, Simon said, “…items that are made here [in the U.S.], sourced here, or grown here account for about two-thirds of what we spend to buy products at Walmart U.S.”
In recent years, according to Demos, a public policy organization, Wal-Mart spent about $27 billion on goods made in China. Despite the company’s “Buy American campaign, foreign buying is expected to continue at significant levels.
Whether these two initiatives reflect Wal-Mart’s new patriotism and or practicality, the announcements were greeted with positive feedback from First Lady Michelle Obama, Jim Knotts, CEO of Operation Homefront, a veterans support organization; and President of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, Scott Paul.
Wal-Mart’s public image in recent years has been tarnished by the reportedly low wages it pays its employees, and because the overwhelming majority of the products it sells are manufactured in foreign countries.
At least 7 million U.S. jobs have been lost because of Wal-Mart’s sourcing overseas, according to Demos, a public policy organization. The firm’s “Buy American” campaign is designed to bring manufacturing and jobs back to the U.S. from those foreign countries which were once the major sources of Wal-Mart’s goods.
Some critics of Wal-Mart’s plan say the company can help the economy more effectively by paying their employees higher wages.