Getting on Walmart shelves

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 127 views 

Negotiating through Wal-Mart’s labyrinth of approvals for your item to be placed on store shelves can be like winning the lottery for some suppliers. But once you get there, it may not always equal a big payoff.

That’s where 8th and Walton, a six-year-old service provider comes into play. Known as third-party supplier to vendorville, 8th & Walton focuses on helping Walmart suppliers get on the shelves and navigate retailer's complex supply chain. To date 8th & Walton serves as a gateway for the more than 1,300 Walmart suppliers.

Gathering experts from the vendor community, 8th and Walton then teaches other new suppliers how to be more effective within Wal-Mart’s walls. The 20 people on their staff are seen as experts on communicating and reporting with Walmart. The classes are small and costs up to $600.

It’s no secret that Wal-Mart runs on massive information systems. The major one being Retail Link which is an enormous database of sales, item file and stockholding information accessible by buyers and suppliers
“There are hundreds of millions of data points a day,” said 8th and Walton’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Jeff Clapper, “from SKUs to stores to shoppers, getting the data to the user is complex.” (SKU is a stock-keeping unit or unique identifier for each product in a store.)

The suppliers are current experts and help others find efficiencies and inefficiencies in that data. The points vary. It could be an out-of-stock circumstance or an across the board opportunity to improve the supplier’s business. The suppliers use their personal experience to create a customizable scenario for the others which Clapper calls the “so what and now what” method.

He cited an example where the company helped a supplier discover in two days how $800,000 wasn’t being spent by Wal-Mart customers.

Cameron Smith, founder of CSA Recruiters, says "With all the services out there for Walmart suppliers, we have to be careful who we recommend."  He said 8th & Walton has consulted with the best in the business in writing their curriculum and it's the only place he would send a potential supplier for education on the Wal-Mart way.

Clapper was raised in Chicago by parents in the magazine business and says he's always possessed an entrepreneurial attitude.

“My parents worked together and I listened to business-talk at the dinner table every night,” he said. “I was 14 months old and they brought me to the office where 25 of their employees watched me.”

Clapper said he’s comfortable doing “my own thing” and knowing there’s opportunity and risk. He has started and sold several companies including Gimme Golf, an online golf game and Clapper publishing. He’s a partner of Technology 101 and president of Zapiddy, a start-up smartphone app that pays shoppers for answering questions.

Clapper continues to branch out  with new business ventures and programs through 8th and Walton. The company recently started two supplier service programs. The first is an onboarding facility for new suppliers. It’s a 90-day program which helps the supplier get off the ground and running.

The second program is called scorecard optimization — a fancy title for sending in experts to find out what you are missing. This can involve small companies or the big national brands that don’t want to take the time or don’t have the personnel to look for business opportunities they are missing, Clapper said.

“People have great intentions and great ideas,” he said, “We help nice, local, down-to-earth people looking to make a living and multi-national companies who want to improve their business."