story by Kim Souza
Wal-Mart is the first of what could be seven or eight other retailers to partner with the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), committing to sell merchandise featuring a new logo identifying the goods as produced by women-owned businesses.
“At Walmart we are committed to empowering women and impacting women-owned businesses from around the world—and so are our customers. In fact, we recently conducted a survey that found 90% of female customers in the U.S. would go out of their way to purchase products from women, believing they would offer higher quality,” said MiKaela Wardlaw Lemmon, senior director of Women’s Economic Empowerment at Wal-Mart.
This label collaboration is part of Walmart's Global Women's Economic Empowerment initiative, launched in September 2011. At the time, Walmart committed to source $20 billion from women for its U.S. business and to double sourcing from women internationally by the end of 2016.
“We hope our collaboration with WBENC and WEConnect International will make customers around the world more aware of great products from women-owned businesses, and help these women continue to grow their businesses,” Lemmon said.
WBENC reports that women owned businesses contribute more than $1.3 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy and women are responsible for more than 80% of the consumer decisions globally. Creating awareness of these products can result in sales growth, increased consumer knowledge and loyalty. Both WBENC and WEConnect International focus on women’s business growth, which will be a natural outcome of the visibility and promotion of the new logo, according to the organization’s release.
Wal-Mart’s role in the process was to collaborate on the logo design and conduct the supporting research. The retailer said consumers will begin seeing the new logo on its shelves in September.
Helen Lampkin, CEO of Rogers-based My Brothers Salsa, is a certified WBENC member and said her small business is excited about using the new logo on its products sold at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club and in other retailers as well.
“The suppliers have to bear the cost of printing the new labels that will show the new logo, so for our business we are gradually working the label into circulation. We have a new non-GMO, certified organic, gluten free tortilla chip coming out soon and we held up the label production for a week so we could include the WBENC logo image on that product label. We also have seasonal items that are sold in Sam’s Clubs and those will be also bear the new WBENC image,” Lampkin said.
Lampkin’s salsa got into Wal-Mart Stores through the Empowering Women’s Initiative. She said her buyer told her a year before Wal-Mart made the announcement in 2011 that there were opportunities for women-owned businesses within Wal-Mart.
“I heeded that advice and got WBENC certified in 2010. I believe Wal-Mart signing on to this label initiative will provide just the spark needed. I am eager to see if the stores will use any special signage or displays to highlight the products bearing the new label,” Lampkin said.
Wal-Mart’s role could also be to help educate women and consumers at large to look for the new logo, just like they might for “certified organic” or “Made in USA”.
Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of consumables and U.S. manufacturing lead at Wal-Mart, said during Tuesday’s (July 8) Open Call session, the retailer likes to see “Made in USA” on the front of the packaging labels, which alleviates the need for additional signage in stores aisles. But she also said some stores chose to highlight certain items in special displays like “Arkansas’ Own” to let consumers know that those products are made in a particular state.
“Our store managers have a great deal of autonomy in how they chose to display special items, because they know how much labor they have to accomplish those tasks,” Gloeckler said.
Lampkin’s salsa and chip products are made in the U.S. by a woman-owned business, and they are formulated as “All Natural,” some are gluten-free and non-GMO and certified organic, which could make for some interesting labeling dilemmas, she said.