I’ve been following Walmart’s Made in the USA pledge, so I was interested to see that the company opened its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters last week for its Made in the USA Open Call, and 500 suppliers and 200 merchants showed up for the event. The event was the next step in the company’s plan to buy an additional $250 billion in American-made products in the next 10 years.

 

“We’re opening our doors and making our buyers available to meet with suppliers with one goal in mind: buy more American products,” says Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. “When we buy new products, suppliers hire people to make those products. These American jobs build families and communities, and they help our country thrive. That’s really what our domestic manufacturing commitment is all about.”

 

Walmart plans to pursue its Made in the USA goals by:

  • increasing what it already buys of U.S. manufactured goods
  • sourcing “new to Walmart” U.S. manufactured goods
  • supporting the re-shoring of manufacturing of the goods it currently buys

 

Other parts of the equation are that customers have told Walmart they want to buy products that support their communities, and with changes in energy and automation processes overseas, it’s increasingly cost-effective and efficient to manufacture closest to the point of consumption, says Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart’s executive vice president of consumables and U.S. manufacturing. Buying more goods made in the U.S. will enable Walmart to better respond to trends and customer demand while providing great products at affordable prices, she says.

 

At the company’s Open Call last week, manufacturers were able to pitch products, but perhaps more importantly, the retailer also hosted breakout sessions on key merchandise topics such as labeling and packaging, product compliance, sustainability, supplier administration, and supplier diversity.

 

Gloeckler, who has led Walmart’s domestic sourcing initiative since it was unveiled 18 months ago, says the event exceeded the company’s expectations and also bodes well for the company’s upcoming U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver. At Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit last year, representatives from 500 supplier companies, 32 state governments, major retail industry leaders and other retailers met to discuss manufacturing in the U.S. The key difference between this year’s Summit and the event last year is that Walmart looks to play an even larger role as facilitator and accelerator this year, Gloeckler says.

 

One of the challenges suppliers face is connecting with manufacturers who have available capacity in the U.S., Gloeckler says. To remedy that situation, Walmart will feature a trade show format at the event in Denver to serve as a matchmaker between suppliers who would like to sell domestically sourced goods but need help locating manufacturers with the capacity to do so. Walmart also says it’s especially interested in having factory owners with excess capacity attend the event—even those that aren’t interested in supplying Walmart directly—in the hope that they can become contract manufacturers to Walmart suppliers looking to produce in the U.S.

 

Admittedly, Walmart’s initiative by itself most likely won’t sway companies into re-shoring. But for some companies which are re-shoring and face challenges such as difficulty locating U.S.-based suppliers, the Walmart events could be a big help.

 

  What are your thoughts on Walmart’s Made in the USA initiative or its events this summer?