Five hundred suppliers, 200 merchants and 800 meetings equaled made in U.S.A. magic for Walmart as the retailer looked to accelerate domestic sourcing with a first ever event dubbed Open Call.
Walmart held the event at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters on Tuesday, July 8, to discover domestically sourced products from new and existing suppliers that can help the company meet its goal of buying an additional $250 billion in American-made products in the next 10 years.
The 500 suppliers who crammed into small meeting rooms that line both sides of a long main hallway at Walmart’s home office were evenly split between existing suppliers looking to sell new domestically manufactured goods and suppliers who are new to the company, according to Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart’s EVP of consumables and U.S. Manufacturing.
Gloeckler has led Walmart’s domestic sourcing initiative since it was unveiled 18 months ago by Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon. She said Open Call was about finding new and existing suppliers who have products that are made in the U.S. that Walmart isn’t buying and connecting those companies with merchants from Walmart, Walmart.com and Sam’s Club. Doing so, combined with buying more of what the company already buys and reshoring the manufacturing of goods, are the three main ways Gloecker said Walmart expects to achieve its goal. Judging from the turnout at the inaugural event and the energy evident in the hallway among suppliers meeting with Walmart merchants for the first time, the retailer expects to uncover plenty more domestically manufactured goods, but did not indicate when it might hold another Open Call event.
“What today has taught us is that there are a lot of great U.S. made products out there and we need to figure out a way to get them to our customer whether that is in our stores or online,” Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart vp of U.S. sourcing and domestic manufacturing told Retailing Today.
She said the event exceeded the company’s expectations and indicated the next major undertaking on the company’s domestic sourcing journey would take place August 14 and 15 in Denver when the company holds its second U.S. Manufacturing Summit. The key difference between this year’s Summit and the inaugural event last year in Orlando is that Walmart is looking to play an even larger role as facilitator and accelerator. According to Gloeckler and Marisglio, one of the challenges suppliers face is connecting with manufacturers who have available capacity in the U.S. 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.