On Tuesday, June 28th, Walmart held its 4th annual U.S. Manufacturing Supplier Summit at their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The primary focus of the event was again to bring together US suppliers, industry experts, and of course the large purchasing mechanism of Walmart.
With the theme of “Investing in American Jobs” and the rapidly growing Twitter trend of #MadeInUSA, the event brought hundreds of people to this small town in Arkansas to take another step towards backing up their promise of purchasing $250 billion in products sourced or made in the U.S. by 2023.
Walmart made the decision to fill its shelves with American-made products with the hopes of helping to create jobs. In fact, this large investment is expected to result in 1 million jobs, according to Boston Consulting Group. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), there are currently 12.3 million jobs in the United States. So, the power of Walmart’s $250 billion goal becomes even more evident when you consider that it could increase national employment in the manufacturing sector by 7.5 percent.
If it seemed like empty rhetoric to increase public relations and not truly to support American manufacturing, that idea should be shattered by now as it is clear Walmart means business. They are single-handedly moving the dial to help scale American businesses and the hundreds of pitches to their buyers was evidence.
The event started with an introduction to these efforts by Walmart’s energy-filled CEO, Greg Foran, who was sporting his usual Walmart vest and employee badge instead of a full suit and tie – an uncommon sight for most current CEOs. This down-to-earth approach seemed to resonate beyond just the CEO and was visible throughout the proceedings. After Greg warmed up the crowd, Walmart’s Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies showcased a few products that had been added to its shelves since the last summit and then dropped a bombshell.
“So, today at a minimum, we’re putting every item pitched in open call on Walmart.com. So, every single one… is going to be a yes!” There was an uproar of applause and a collective sigh of relief that Walmart was serious about inviting people to use their stores as a launching pad for their businesses. More than 800 suppliers had an opportunity to pitch their products to Walmart buyers and thanks to Steve Bratspies everyone got a “Yes”.
Throughout the day there were several Supplier Academy Sessions that included: “The Walmart Customer”, “U.S. Manufacturing Trends and Insights”, “Paths to U.S. Manufacturing”, and “Doing Business with Walmart”.