It’s the classic right time, right place story.
A system glitch prevented Nicole and Hugh Jarratt of Fayetteville from presenting their tailgate plate to Walmart U.S. buyers at the retailer’s Open Call event held Tuesday (July 7) in Bentonville. But then Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran walked by as they were waiting to pitch another product.
“We didn’t want to miss an opportunity like that to speak directly to the CEO,” Nicole Jarratt said. “It’s easy to pitch a product you are passionate about and these products are kind of like our babies. We have spent a great deal of time and our own money perfecting them. We hope to meet with Walmart about these plates a little later, but today we have our hands full with the wader socks presentation.”
The tailgate plate is made with 100% recycled plastic that comes from Wal-Mart Stores. It’s almost the perfect story for a company that spends a lot of time and money pushing global sustainability. Foran told the Jarretts he was impressed with the concept and is eager to hear more. The Jarratts then rushed to their 10:45 a.m. buyer meeting on their wader socks. A few minutes later the couple emerged, grinning from ear-to-ear on confirmation that the wader socks will start in 300 stores later this year.
“We are lucky to be here, the fact that we get into a store is big deal much less 300 to start,” Hugh Jarratt told The City Wire immediately after the meeting. “What goes through my mind first is that we have a lot of work to do. The first thing I want to do is call my manufacturer in North Carolina and tell them, they already made some products for Wal-Mart so they know the ropes. Off the bat, we have some packaging work to do right away, but we could not have asked for more than we got,” he added.
Last year Fayetteville-based Jarratt Industries successfully pitched Walmart a unique taco plate. That product is now delivered to Walmart stores through 49 distribution centers. The taco plate is made PolyTech Plastic Moldings in Prairie Grove. PolyTech also makes the tailgate plate.
Peggy Knight and Murray Fleming of Bentonville-based Glucose Health met with buyers at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Glucose Health is a powdered tea mix that helps Type 2 diabetics maintain blood sugar balance. The product is compounded by John Lykins, a local pharmacist and owner of Natural Solution Labs in Gravette. He also operates pharmacies in Lowell and Lincoln.
Knight said the presentation went well and they are excited to follow up with the category buyer who could not attend Tuesday’s event.
“The feedback we got was encouraging, they liked the taste and there is room in this category for new products. We feel really good about our next meeting which should happen in the next few days,” said Fleming, who is the CEO of Glucose Health.
DOG NOT GONE
Julie and Bill Swain, owners of Dog Not Gone, traveled to Bentonville from Skowhegan, Maine, for their 20-minute meeting with Walmart buyers. The couple pitched a safety dog vest which also repels insects and ticks. The florescent colored vests are made in their small factory located near Skowhegan.
“We are incredibly excited to be here pitching this product which started out primarily as a safety vest for the hunting dogs in our region. But because it also repels ticks and fleas it has now become a more mainstream product for avid dog walkers,” Julie Swain told The City Wire, before they made their presentation.
Bill Swain said the couple recently purchased Maine Stitching Specialities which allows them to control the quality and output of production. The product is already sold in specialty online and catalog retailers like L.L. Bean, but rolling into big box retail is a brand new world.
After the presentation, the couple said their dog vests were accepted into Walmart Stores on an side-kick display which was beyond their “wildest dreams.”
“We could not be happier. We have more meetings to attend this evening to sort out some more details but we are thrilled to be in,” Bill Swain said after the meeting.
Jennifer McCullough, a Memphis native and Wal-Mart supplier, took the stage in Bentonville at the Open Call to announce eight new products recently approved for sale at the retail giant. It’s been one year since McCullough (Chef Jenn) first pitched her gourmet seafood entrees at the retailer’s inaugural Open Call. She’s back in Bentonville with a new line of product mixes, batters and sauces which were on display at the summit.
“I’m proud to say my sales so far are almost $500,000 on the products sold at Wal-Mart. It has changed my life. Because I have been able to get my entrees in Wal-Mart, it has allowed me the opportunity to invest in new products for outside the freezer,” McCullough said.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart extended McCullough’s frozen seafood entrees into 800 stores that stretch across the Southeastern region of the U.S. from Texas to the Carolinas, with the exception of Florida. The new line of breading and sauces will hit the shelves of 500 stores in the coming weeks.
She told Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president for U.S. Manufacturing at Wal-Mart and the standing room only crowd, that a year ago she had no idea what to expect at her 20-minute buyer meeting.
“I went from making soup in my kitchen … to putting deep freeze units in high-end nail and hair salons and selling my dips and crawfish and crab cakes out of there. (It was) one of the best methods I found for moving my product before I got into Wal-Mart,” McCullough recently told The City Wire.
Tuesday she told the hundreds of prospective suppliers to ask questions and soak up all they could from the day-long meetings. She said there is a lot to learn but the team she’s worked with over the past year was ready to help at every turn.
WAL-MART COMMITMENT, CRITICISM
Gloeckler said Wal-Mart’s commitment to buy $250 billion in additional U.S. made products by 2013 is alive and well. She said the reshoring product from abroad is difficult but it’s feasible in many categories today. She said the retailer will host about 1,000 meetings in Bentonville over the two-conference which concludes Wednesday.
“We have 30 state governments represented tomorrow and 400 meetings between manufacturers, suppliers and governments. It’s fiercely competitive among the states, but it’s exciting to see the interest from so many in this long-term initiative,” Gloecker said.
Roughly two-thirds of products on Wal-Mart shelves are already made in the U.S., but she said there is room for more innovative products that help provide solutions to customer needs.
There is criticism of the retailer’s manufacturing push – as it often is with anything to do with Wal-Mart.
Making Change At Walmart, a union-funded group, has been critical of the retailer’s reshoring push. The group recently alleged that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has $76 billion in assets held abroad to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
The group also said in a “7 Key Facts” website that the reshoring push is ironic because Wal-Mart helped “destroy America’s manufacturing sector to begin with.” They also say the $250 billion pledge is “negligible” considering how much Wal-Mart purchases a year.
“Walmart’s manufacturing summit is an insult to the countless of American workers who have lost their jobs because of their failure to buy American,” Jess Levin, communications director for Making Change at Walmart, said in a statement. “This ‘summit’ is nothing more than a desperate attempt to distract from the real truth that Walmart helped destroy America’s manufacturing sector and still remains the nation’s number one importer. If Walmart wants to create jobs, it must buy American and pay its American taxes.”