Hundreds of hopeful suppliers prep for Walmart Open Call

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 875 views 

United Industries of Rogers will be pitching their Ultra Board foam boards for mounting photographs at this year's Walmart Open Call.

Walmart hosted a prep day Tuesday (June 18) for participants for this year’s Open Call event, to be held Wednesday at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville. More than 500 businesses from across the globe are in Northwest Arkansas this week trying to get their products on Walmart shelves.

This is the sixth year Walmart has held the Open Call as part of its 10-year commitment to source $250 billion in additional goods made in the U.S. — an effort to grow manufacturing jobs in America. The pledge was made in 2013 and Walmart continues to push closer to its goal.

“There’s nothing quite like Open Call and the buzz in the building when our halls are filled with entrepreneurs aspiring to take their business to the next level,” said Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart vice president for Merchandising Services and U.S. Manufacturing.

“Our annual Open Call is one way we continue to invest in this commitment while discovering new items that fulfill the needs of our customers. We have a very strong pool of supplier-hopefuls this year and our buyers can’t wait to hear their pitches,” she said.

Marsigilo and buyers were meeting prospective suppliers on Tuesday (June 18) at the expo held at the John Q. Hammons center in Rogers. This event allowed participants to set up and display their products to buyers and manufacturers attending the event.

Talk Business & Politics met with several of those participants looking to get products into Walmart at this year’s event. Kent Baker and Wade Sisco of United Industries in Rogers said they would be pitching mounting boards for photographs, a product they typically sell to photographers. The products are made locally. Photos can be mounted directly on the form boards, which become the picture frames and can be customized for special events.

Sisco said they are pitching to the craft buyer and hope to get some shelf space for this new product. This will be the company’s first attempt at selling this specialty product into retail. They make foam boards for retail and sell mostly to other businesses.

Steve Percifield made the trip to Bentonville from Joliet, Illinois. He is the vice president of sales (Midwest) for Jenny Lee Swirl Bread baked in Pennsylvania. The frozen bread is a fifth generation recipe and is mostly sold into foodservice and regional grocery chains. He is hoping to take the bread national and will pitch this product on Wednesday to the frozen bread buyer.

Rena DeBerry of McAirlaids’s, from Rocky Mount, Va., said the company makes absorbent products and at last year’s Open Call got three items in 500 stores. She said the items had been in stores for about six weeks now and the company is tracking those sales. The products already in Walmart are absorbent pads for men who suffer incontinence issues.

This year, the company is pitching a couple of different products. One is a tarp that absorbs oil, and the company is also pitching its services as a private brand manufacturer for MainStay moisture pads that Walmart already sells.

Walmart said there will be more than 600 meetings on Wednesday where suppliers and product manufacturers will sit down with buyers for 20 minutes showcasing their products and trying to get a deal. Some suppliers will get a green light to move forward and others will be told to try again later.

Walmart said everyone who attends the Open Call event will benefit from networking and educational sessions offered throughout the two days.

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