story by Kim Souza
Armed with $250 billion to spend on U.S. made products through 2023, Wal-Mart Stores is holding its first “Open Call” for suppliers on Tuesday (July 8). The day full of more than 500 meetings at Wal-Mart’s home office in Bentonville between prospective suppliers and Wal-Mart could mean more business for manufacturers in the Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith areas.
Gov. Mike Beebe is scheduled to attend the opening session at 8:45 Tuesday morning along with Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon. The general session will set the tone for the event and several other informational sessions that will be held throughout the day for prospective suppliers.
“Monday’s educational series will include sessions on product compliance protocol, supplier diversity, labeling and knowing the Walmart customer,” said Kayla Whaling, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
SELLING U.S. MADE
Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S. sourcing and manufacturing for Walmart U.S., told The City Wire that two-thirds of the products already sold by Wal-Mart are made in America. Wal-Mart announced in early 2013 a plan to increase its purchase of American made products to $50 billion by 2023.
“We remain focused on expanding that by $250 billion in U.S. made products. We are doing that in three ways: working with current suppliers, working with current supplier who want to reshore some operations and finding more new U.S. suppliers,” Marsiglio said.
She said Wal-Mart has 150 projects in the pipeline now looking at reshoring operations.
“There is no category we aren’t considering. We work as the facilitator between state economic development teams and businesses seeking onshoring opportunities. We are holding our second annual Manufacturing Summit in Denver August 14-15, between all the stakeholders — local and state government economic teams and suppliers,” Marsiglio said.
She said there are roughly 900 suppliers — not quite one half of those already do business with Wal-Mart — slated to meet with buyers at Tuesday’s first ever Open Call for U.S. products.
The Open Call meeting was announced earlier this year by Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of consumables and U.S. manufacturing at Walmart. One item she called to attention was patio furniture, saying the retailer is looking for U.S. made or assembled units to stock for next season to cut down on the shipping time and carbon footprint of the seasonal items.
Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., said the retailer is eager to see what new products may be presented at Open Call. He said coolers, textiles, televisions and even pink flamingo yard ornaments, once only made in China are now made in the U.S. and sold at Wal-Mart.
Hugh Jarratt, owner of Jarratt Industries in Fayetteville, will be among the prospective suppliers vying for shelf space at Wal-Mart Stores at Tuesday’s Open Call.
“I signed up through the Open Call submission form online. Around June 17 or 18 I got notified of a meeting with buyers at the July 8 Open Call,” Jarratt told The City Wire.
A lawyer by trade, Jarratt invented a taco plate about four and a half years ago and sold them at the War Eagle Craft fair. He slowly got the plates and two more products into retail stores, Amazon.com and specialty catalogs. Most recently his taco plate, double dip bowl and patio plates were picked up by Harp’s Food Stores. The products are manufactured in Prairie Grove by PolyTech Molding.
“I thought about the design for a taco plate that would keep three tacos standing upright, with two other compartments for beans, rice or salsa. I went to Toys R Us and bought some Floam that I used to mold the shape I wanted,” Jarratt said.
Jarratt searched Google for injection molding manufacturers in Arkansas and PolyTech Molding in nearby Prairie Grove popped up.
“I worked with PolyTech to develop the prototype and we added the bright colors a little later with the help of Mesa Industries in Fort Smith,” Jarratt said. “I added the double-dip bowl and patio or tailgate plates and secured collegiate licensing for personalization of teams for tailgaters.”
Working with a local manufacturer, Jarratt said he is able to get a very quick turnaround on orders and he keeps several thousand units in stock for wholesale reorders.
“I don’t think I could be in business without PolyTech Molding. They handle my shipping and fulfillment since I am just a two-person corporation — my wife and I, who are both practicing attorneys,” Jarratt said.
In preparation for this meeting with Wal-Mart buyers on Tuesday, Jarratt said he has done his homework, pulling all his sales numbers and presenting his ideas for pricing and display methods.
“If this product is priced right and properly displayed, then it sells. I have the track record to prove it.”