Walmart Inc. today announced that it’s investing $350 billion over the next decade on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S. The retailer, which is focusing on six priority categories, including plastics, textiles, small electrical appliances, food processing, pharmaceutical and medical supplies, and Goods Not For Resale, estimated the commitment will support 750,000 new jobs.
The retailer said it will cultivate American-made products through reshoring, expanding orders with existing suppliers and placing orders with new suppliers. Walmart cited the most competitive U.S.-made products as those made of raw materials available here, such as cotton, plastics and metals, items with highly automated product processes, and products that are inefficient to ship.
In addition to the job growth, the initiative will have a positive impact on the environment, with 100 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided by sourcing products in closer proximity to consumers.
Walmart said the investment will also open the door to small businesses and diverse suppliers and sellers based in the U.S., giving 9,000 entrepreneurs the opportunity to become Walmart vendors through the retailer’s Open Call days, when anyone with a shelf-ready product that supports American jobs can pitch the retailer. This year’s event will be held virtually on June 30.
The retailer has been down the domestic road before. Walmart in the ’80s was part of a Crafted With Pride campaign that pledged to buy American products. According to reports, Walmart initially cut imports by 20%, but turned to more exports to support its global expansion and everyday low price business model.
In 2013, Walmart pledged to spend $250 billion over 10 years on products made in the U.S. At the time, the retailer said that two-thirds of what it bought was already made or grown in the U.S. “We’re on track to deliver this promise, but we can do more,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. The retailer launched the 2013 effort after criticism from unions and others who said its emphasis on low-priced goods was undermining U.S. jobs.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. lost more than 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs since 1997. About 500,000 jobs were gained between 2016 and 2019 due to increased domestic purchasing spurred by tax cuts and heavy federal spending, but the recently-added jobs were wiped out by the Covid-19 crisis, with more than 740,000 lost in 2020.
Citing supplier Techtronic Industries in Anderson, South Carolina, which assembles items sold in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com, Furner said the 1,500-person plant plans to double its headcount over the the next two years. “We want more American communities to see these benefits,” Furner said. “That’s why we’re strengthening our commitment to U.S. manufacturing.”
Walmart is launching American Lighthouses to unite key stakeholders in specific regions of the country to identify and overcome top-down barriers to U.S. production. The Lighthouses will bring together participants from the supplier community, including manufacturers and NGOs, leaders from academia, government and local economic development groups.
By joining together key regions and various stakeholders, Walmart believes it can improve supply chain efficiency, which will support the goal of bringing back U.S. manufacturing in a sustainable, long-term way.
“U.S. manufacturing really matters,” Furner said. “It matters to our suppliers, to entrepreneurs and to the environment. It matters to our customers with more than 85% of them saying that it’s important for us to carry products made or assembled in the U.S. Most of all, because of the jobs it brings, it matters to American communities and the people who live in them.”