Walmart sets ‘Open Call’ again with U.S. manufacturing push

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,114 views 

The Open Call stage in 2017.

Walmart has set June 13 as its “Open Call” day. Hundreds of hopeful suppliers will descend on Walmart’s corporate offices prepped for a 20-minute buyer meeting that can make or break their business plans.

The retail giant said suppliers seeking a buyer meeting have until May 4 to sign up online. Walmart said time slots are filling up after it opened registration on March 22, according to the release.

“Walmart’s investment in U.S.-manufactured products goes beyond the shelf. The investment is also in the entrepreneurs’ dream, and that can be an emotional experience for everyone involved,” said Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart’s vice president of merchandise services and U.S. manufacturing. “By investing in products that support American jobs, we’re able to bring new products to our shelves and new jobs to our communities.”

Attendees at this year’s Open Call could secure deals ranging from a handful of stores in a local market, to supplying thousands of stores, Sam’s Club locations and Walmart.com. The Bentonville-based retailer also touts the day has a networking opportunity for local entrepreneurs, Marsiglio added.

This marks the fourth year Walmart has held an Open Call in conjunction with its support of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Fayetteville businessman Hugh Jarratt landed a contract at each of the three prior Open Calls, but he won’t be attending this year because of family issues. Jarratt said he has plenty of product ideas to pitch but he’s still working on getting the wood warmer room scents accepted by Walmart last year into stores. Jarratt’s taco plates and double dipper bowls are still being sold in Walmart. Those products are manufactured in Prairie Grove by PolyTech Plastics.

Alina Morse, a 12-year-old from Michigan, in 2017 had her Zollipops accepted by Walmart. The suckers that clean teeth and prevent tooth decay hit 4,500 stores in February. Getting from Open Call onto store shelves was a big leap for the startup but having their U.S. manufacturing already in place was an advantage.

Morse recently told Talk Business & Politics there was a lot of paperwork to do and then they had to double down on the product manufacturing to be able to fill the first purchase order from Walmart. She said the packaging was a hit because of its bright colors. And given it’s on the bottom shelf at Walmart it also needed to stand out. Walmart also bought Morse’s Zaffi Taffy which are sold in the oral health department next to children’s toothpaste. The bags of mouth-cleaning candy sell for $3.22 each.

At last year’s event, Walmart allowed its employees to chose one product they wanted to see in stores. Dera-Tie was voted onto the shelves through the internal promotion and the company was given a deal on the spot. Dera-Ties were under every seat in the auditorium for every attendee to take home.

“Our Open Call experience with Walmart was an incredible moment for our business,” said Jason DeYoung, managing member of Dera Industries. “The deal we secured has led to a large increase in production, which resulted in new jobs for the community. The product is now licensed, manufactured and distributed under the name One-Tie by Tailor Made Products, located in Elroy, Wisconsin.”

Walmart said it will hold a private brands expo in conjunction with this year’s Open Call. This event is “invite only” and will take place 3 to 5 p.m., June 12 at Four Points Sheraton in Bentonville. There will be two mentoring sessions for suppliers that evening at the hotel between 4 and 5:30 p.m.

The June 13 agenda will include a general session from 8 to 9:15 a.m. prior to the buyer meetings. The buyer meetings are held between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the home office and two ancillary buildings. Walmart will hold its Supplier Academy sessions in the the home office auditorium at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. There is a special presentation scheduled at 1 p.m. after the lunch which is provided onsite.

The Open Call is part of Walmart’s decade long commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products made, sourced or grown in the U.S. by 2023. Marsiglio said by investing in products that support American Jobs Walmart can play a role in accelerating growth in U.S. Manufacturing.

The Boston Consulting Group said Walmart’s collaboration with suppliers, engagement with industry experts and leveraging it large scale could create up to 1 million new America jobs by 2023. The Reshoring Initiative recently reported that combined reshoring and related foreign direct investment added 171,000 jobs in 2017, up 2,800% from 2010. Including upward revisions of 67,000 jobs in prior years, the total number of manufacturing jobs brought to the U.S. from offshore is over 576,000 since the manufacturing employment low of 2010. The 171,000 reshoring and FDI jobs announced equal 90% of the 189,000 total manufacturing jobs added in 2017 according to Reshoring Initiative.

“We publish this data annually to show companies that their peers are successfully reshoring and that they should reevaluate their sourcing and siting decisions,” said Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative. “With 3 to 4 million manufacturing jobs still offshore, as measured by our $500 billion/year trade deficit, there is potential for much more growth.”

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