Within the first two days of launching the invitation for its fourth Open Call, Walmart U.S. received about 200 applications from existing and prospective suppliers to pitch their products in front of buyers.
Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of Walmart U.S. manufacturing, said this year those who receive an invitation to present will also have access to leadership from all of the online formats owned by Wal-Mart Stores. She said meetings will be held between category buyers and the prospective suppliers, but also attending will be category leaders from Moosejaw, Jet.com, ShoeBuy and ModCloth, as well as Sam’s Club.
“It’s really a great format to get product suppliers in front of the right buyer, which can sometimes be a cumbersome process. It’s a fast track, and it’s been successful for us,” Marsiglio said.
In years past buyers held 800 meetings across several buildings in Bentonville. Marsiglio said a time block from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is set aside for the individual 30-minute meetings where the new products are pitched to buyers. Applications will be accepted until May 18, or until the time slots are filled. Last year the retailer cut off registration two days early.
This year, Marsiglio said the opening session will feature Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug McMillon and Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran, who are expected to update suppliers on the retailer’s progress in its 10-year commitment, to source $250 billion in goods made in the America. Marsiglio said this is the fifth year of a 10-year commitment and the retailer is pleased with the progress. She said as the retailer approaches the halfway mark of the initiative, plenty has been learned. She said this year Wal-Mart opted to combine its Manufacturing Summit with the Supplier Growth Forum that was held in Bentonville in February.
“I was able to speak with more suppliers this year when they traveled here in February,” she said. “While it’s exciting to bring on new suppliers with Open Call, we have found the most progress has come from sourcing more U.S. made products from suppliers that already do business with us.”
Marsiglio said the retailer also will look for unique new products at Open Call, but bringing on a new supplier can be a timely endeavor, whereas products from existing suppliers are easier to get in the system.
Marsiglio dismissed the notion that the retailer is scaling back manufacturing support efforts. She said investments made last year to spur textile innovations are part of a long term plan, and it’s too early to evaluate. She said the U.S. manufacturing sessions held for suppliers at the recent Supplier Growth Forum were productive.
Marsiglio said Modo Eyewear, a supplier to Walmart, invested in a new automated facility in New York that manufactures eyeglass frames for men, women and children, as well as sunglasses and readers, which will be priced at $10. She said the fashionable $10 readers will debut in stores in late June with the “Made in the U.S.” logo.
“Modo took the challenge to heart and came up with a way to make frames onshore, something we have wanted for quite a while to stock our optical centers,” Marsiglio said. “They were able to leverage our resources along with help from other stakeholders to make this happen.”
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