Wal-Mart says ‘Yes’ to every U.S.-made product pitched for Walmart.com

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 367 views 

A crowd gathers Tuesday (June 28) morning at Wal-Mart Stores' headquarters in Bentonville for the 2016 Open Call and U.S. Manufacturing Summit.

In an effort to expand its online products in a big way, Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores said each of the more than 450 entrepreneurs pitching nearly 800 products during Tuesday’s Open Call will be told “yes” by their buyer to get those products on Walmart.com.

When Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., made the announcement at the Open Call and U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Bentonville Tuesday (June 28) the crowd erupted with cheers. Bratspies said a few weeks ago he wanted to be able to tell everyone yes and after working with buyers for Walmart.com that is now a reality. The caveat to the deal is that the products must be made in the U.S., be shelf stable and have no hazardous handling requirements.

“We are thrilled to put hundreds of new Made in the USA products on Walmart.com,” said Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president, Consumables, Health & Wellness, U.S. Manufacturing Lead. “Walmart’s $250 billion commitment to buy products supporting American jobs is having a tangible impact on communities across the country as factories expand or open to make products for Walmart stores, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club.”

This is is the third year Walmart has opened its door to potential suppliers to pitch new products for the retailer’s shelves. Gloeckler told the crowd the retailer is excited as ever about this initiative because it makes good business sense and it’s also helping instill pride back in towns across the country.

Julie Barber, a buyer for the snack category told Talk Business & Politics that the announcement was a great way to kick off this year’s event.

“It takes some of the pressure off of these potential suppliers as they meet with buyers today. They know the trip has already been worth making no matter how their presentation with the buyer goes. It’s also a great way for smaller suppliers to scale up their business with Walmart,” Barber said.

Peggy Knight, a broker with VendorMasters, said her clients, Cady Products out of Seagoville, Texas, were elated to get their products – Chunkie’s salsa and aloe-based margarita and bloody mary mix – up on Walmart.com. They obviously want to get on the retailer’s physical shelves as well, but she said the announcement was good news. She said two different buying teams coordinating pitches to Walmart.com and Walmart U.S. in the same day is tough. She said clients will get Walmart.com or Walmart U.S. but seldom are able to hit both distribution channels in a single day.

Like Cady Products, hundreds of potential and current suppliers representing companies large and small from coast to coast are pitching everything from food to toys to apparel, and meeting with hundreds of Wal-Mart buyers for the chance to sell their U.S. made products.

Barber said buyers have the power to cut a deal with any and all of the product manufacturers on the spot. She said many of those pitching products are small mom and pop operations and the biggest challenge they will have is to scale up their business for Walmart’s massive volume.

Gloeckler warned potential suppliers that the worst thing they could be do after getting told yes, is to promise more than they can deliver on time. She said if Walmart wants to put the product in 1,000 stores and the supplier knows it only has the capacity to supply 500 stores they should speak up. She said Walmart has the ability to allows suppliers the opportunity to start in a few stores and expand later, but she noted that it’s the same work for buyers whether the products are in five stores or 2,500.

She said companies in Bentonville for the Open Call hail from more than 40 states and there are just under 800 meetings with buyers, the largest buying day for the retailer of the year.

With 40 million customers per month, Walmart.com is the 15th largest online shopping site, despite being the world’s largest retailer. Walmart’s online traffic equals just 7% of weekly store traffic and only 2% of the sales. The majority of Walmart’s online shoppers also shop in the retailer’s stores, 80% at least once a month and half of online shoppers frequent the retailer’s stores once a week, according to analysts with Cleveland Research.

Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon recently committed to spend $2 billion to fully integrate the retailer into an omnichannel model, where the digital shopping experience is tied to the physical shopping trip. But experts say pulling this off is harder than it may seem, even for a retail behemoth like Wal-Mart.