Walmart hosted more than 500 manufacturers on Tuesday at its world headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. in its first “Made in the USA” open call for products. Suppliers meet with the company’s senior executives and merchants to pitch products for Walmart stores, Sam’s Club and Walmart.com.
The event was part of the retailer’s initiative announced last year to spend an additional $250 billion on products supporting domestic manufacturing and American jobs over the next 10 years. In a multi-pronged approach, Walmart said it would increase what it already buys of U.S.-made goods, source “new to Walmart” American-made products, and support the re-shoring of manufacturing of the goods it currently buys.
Half of the suppliers in attendance were new to Walmart, Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of the consumables division and U.S. manufacturing lead for Wal-Mart U.S., reported. The company’s buyers listened to 800 30-minute pitches during the open call. T-shirts and socks were among the list of products suppliers pitched to Walmart executives. Other products spanned plastic toys to household items like shower curtains, bed sheets and trash bags.
Walmart has not released a final tally of the number of orders it placed during the event, however, Bill Simon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S, said, by hosting the open call, Walmart was able to discover new products it didn’t know were out there. “We’re excited to find new items that will delight our customers at prices they can afford. This is not a program or a promotion–this is economics. For many products, the math simply works,” he said.
Walmart executives also led a series of educational breakout sessions during the event that touched on a range of merchandising topics, including labeling and packaging, product compliance, sustainability, supplier administration and supplier diversity.
According to data from Walmart’s suppliers, items that are made, sourced, assembled or grown in America already account for about two-thirds of what Walmart U.S. spends to buy products.