Walmart’s buyers have almost 800 meetings slated for its ‘Open Call’ Manufacturing Summit

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 477 views 

Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Prospective suppliers from across the country will line up in front of Walmart and Sam’s Club buyers on Tuesday (June 28) for the retail giant’s third “Open Call,” which is being held in conjunction with the annual U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Bentonville.

It’s a full day of events for prospective suppliers and manufacturers that begins promptly at 8 a.m. and runs through 4 p.m., before the networking session at the Walmart AMP in Rogers, which is sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Council. The day’s events will wrap up around 6 p.m.

Michelle Gloeckler, executive vice president of consumables and lead for Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing initiative, told Talk Business & Politics there are just under 800 meetings scheduled with potential suppliers between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

“We had to close down registration this year a couple of days early because we sold out time slots. These are 30-minute meetings with buyers from, Walmart Marketplace, Sam’s Club and Walmart stores. We are using every conference room we have at home office, the apparel building and at Sam’s Club,” Gloeckler said during a brief interview on June 14.

She said during the general morning session Walmart would highlight some of the progress it’s made in its U.S. manufacturing jobs initiative along with products bought from last year’s Open Call event.

“I am really excited that this year we have at least two suppliers pitching ‘celebrity’ label products and there will also be a major Walmart announcement during the morning session,” Gloeckler shared.

This is the third year Walmart has opened its doors in an Open Call format. Gloeckler said there are hoops to jump through – no phone call or pre-pitch meetings. Registration for this year’s event opened on March 15 and ran through mid-May. Walmart fashioned the Open Call as part of its hunt for American-made products and the 10-year, $250 billion commitment from Walmart to buy additional U.S. made products.

“Every year, I get to meet with incredible entrepreneurs with passion for their products. I’m always inspired by the ideas, commitment and grit we hear and see in the pitch rooms. One of my favorite stories was a husband-and-wife team who came to us with a plate that holds tacos upright. It was a simple idea, but a great product. No more dumped tacos! We loved it and bought 1 million units on the spot,” Gloeckler recently noted in a blog post.

The taco plate was invented locally by Hugh Jarratt and is made at PolyTech Plastics in Prairie Grove. Jarrett also pitched his wading socks last year and they also got into several Walmart stores for this year’s duck hunting season.

Talk Business & Politics recently interviewed two prospective suppliers who will be traveling from New York and from Florida to Bentonville for this year’s Open Call event in hopes of getting their products on the retail giant’s shelves.

Cindy Inman, founder and CEO of Plumeria located in upstate New York, said the magnesium cream she created for her ailing mom, has slowly turned into a business that she’s ready to take mainstream. Inman lives and operates in Grand Island, New York and said she’s a little nervous about the pitch to Walmart, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

She has been selling her cream through direct marketing programs as well as in several storefronts in her region and she’s now working with local broker Jami Dennis to try and get the product on Walmart shelves.

“The process thus far has been very easy. I submitted an application and within minutes I got a response and later an appointment time. I am eager to make the trip and meet with Walmart because I know they do not offer a magnesium cream at this time,” Inman said.

The cream is a way for consumers to increase the levels of magnesium in their bodies without taking it orally. She said magnesium deficiencies are associated with migraines and sleep disorders, like restless leg syndrome.

Dr. Ted Anders, CEO of Flagler Beach, Florida-based Nature’s Nurse International and co-founder of Resina Koral, said he is looking forward to his appointment with buyers in Bentonville on June 28. Anders also described the sign-up process as seamless. He said Respigard is an oral serum that aids with respiratory distress associated from seasonal allergies and chronic respiratory challenges such as asthma.

The product is now being sold in several Manhattan pharmacies as well as at Earth’s Fair in Asheville, N.C. He said the product is classified as a dietary supplement and it’s made in North Carolina at KingBio Natural Pharmaceuticals. The product is patent-pending.

Anders said in stores where the product is sold the repurchase rate is 70%. He aspires to work with Walmart to get the product into stores in the most polluted cities it operates where it can also hold product demonstrations and educational sessions of how the product works to clear the passageways for easier breathing. Like with Inman, there is not a product like this on the Walmart shelf at this time. Anders is also working with Dennis to get this product into Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, which are both looking to expand their health and wellness offerings.

Gloeckler said this year’s summit is being scaled down in terms of state government participation and that allowed the event to be held in concert with the Open Call at the retailer’s home office in Bentonville.

She said this year Walmart is bringing all the textile manufacturers for home and apparel for a closed meeting with the five colleges — North Carolina State, Oregon State, Clemson, Cornell and University of Texas — who in January were given $2.84 million in funding by the Walmart Foundation to focus on innovations in textile manufacturing. This innovation funding is slated to award $10 million in grants over the five years in hopes of onshoring more textile operations.

Gloeckler said the schools will make presentations to the manufacturers on how they are using technology to increase efficiency and output and the meeting will have the technology innovators in the room with the textile manufacturers which is a step in the right direction.

The Manufacturing Summit will also include a short presentation from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson during the opening session. Walmart will offer several sessions throughout the day on U.S. manufacturing. Hal Sirkin of the Boston Consulting Group will lead a session on U.S. manufacturing trends and and emerging factors that will shape the U.S. manufacturing sector in the years to come. A second session on domestic manufacturing will explore how to best engage with federal and state governments to understand available resources and incentives.