Walmart heard more than 900 pitches at virtual Open Call

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 908 views 

Walmart’s 8th annual Open Call for prospective suppliers took place virtually on June 30. The retail giant said merchant teams heard from more than 900 entrepreneurs who pitched their products made, grown or assembled in the U.S.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon opened the event by recapping the commitment of an additional $350 billion Walmart said it will spend on U.S. made products by 2030. He said the past 18 months have been challenging and while the event is virtual again this year, the ingenuity and excitement from participants is a clear sign that entreneurism is alive and well in 2021.

McMillon said Open Call is one of his favorite days of the year because of the success stories that will happen for some suppliers and the addition and support for more U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer and business development and U.S. manufacturing for global sourcing, said one of her favorite stories is that of Jim Mullen, a business owner who pitched shelf-ready applesauce and got a green light to move forward. Mullen is a former Chicago police officer who was shot in the line of duty 25 years ago and is now a quadriplegic. He manufactures his mom’s original applesauce recipe and was one of 167 products Walmart approved following the June 30 virtual call. Phillips said 705 other entrepreneurs are receiving further consideration.

McMillon spotlighted Ferndale, Mich.-based Le Host Hair & Wig. He said they came to Open Call in 2019 and took a shot. In the midst of the pandemic in 2020 they applied again and got a deal. Haith and Henry Johnson sell wigs and hair supplies from their shop in downtown Ferndale. Haith said after walking numerous Walmart stores she noticed the retail giant was not selling products for women who wear wigs or hair extensions.

“That’s when I knew that we had an in with Walmart,” Haith Johnson said.

Le Host is a business-to-business company serving large retail. She said the company moved from a place of uncertainty amid the pandemic, to getting a letter from Walmart with a chance to pitch their products and secure a deal. Johnson said there is nothing better than growing a business to serve others.

Phillips said Walmart buyers spoke with suppliers from all 50 states on Wednesday, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Each pitch session was 30 minutes with one-on-one virtual meetings between category buyers and the entrepreneur. Phillips also said a veteran-owned business from Fredericksburg, Vi., Ricks Roasters, also got a yes for three ground coffee items to be sold in Walmart stores.

Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said all of the 900 participants were invited to sell their products on or marketplace provided they are made, grown or assembled in the U.S.