UPDATED: For manufacturers, it can be a challenge to crack into the world's biggest retailer, but Wal-Mart made it easier on July 8 by hosting its first-ever “Made In the USA” open call — and about half of the 500-plus suppliers made their first pilgrimage to Bentonville, Ark.
It's part of a plan by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to spend an additional $250 billion on U.S.-made products over the next decade.
Michelle Gloeckler, Wal-Mart's executive vice president of consumables and U.S. manufacturing, said the retailer wants to increase the U.S. items it already buys, support the re-shoring of those goods and source products from new domestic suppliers.
“We're about 18 months into this initiative,” Gloeckler said in a conference call. U.S. manufacturing is becoming more competitive internationally thanks to automation and lower energy prices, she said.
“We've identified many of these [cases] where the U.S. is incredibly productive,” she said.
Suppliers who visited the Made in the USA event held about 800 meetings with Wal-Mart buyers and attended classes on labeling and packaging, product compliance, sustainability, diversity and an analysis of Wal-Mart's customer base. Each got about 30 minutes to make a pitch, and explain how the product fits with Wal-Mart and is differentiated from existing offerings in the stores, Gloeckler said.
Deals got made on the spot for a wide range of products, including plastic toys, trash bags, shower curtains and office supplies.
Wal-Mart bought 1 million high density polyethylene taco plates from Fayetteville, Ark., inventor Hugh Jarratt — and now company that molds the plates plans to add about 10 jobs.