Walmart Summit Energizes Made In U.S.A.

During its two-day run last week, Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit focused on furthering the company’s $250 billion sourcing initiative by building new connections and effective practices and discovering new products. Still, although its activities are drawing more attention to building consumer goods production in the United States, the retailer isn’t alone in developing programs that promote American industry and jobs.

For Walmart, which combined an open call event with the summit, obtaining new Made in the U.S.A. products was a big part of the event. Open call invites suppliers to pitch new domestically produced products, while the summit focuses on connecting buyers, vendors and government representatives and, now, sharing what they are learning in adding U.S.-produced manufacturing capability.

At the summit, Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. CEO, featured a five-minute meat marinator that includes a pump to facilitate food preparation made in Erie, PA, as part of his presentation to summit attendees. He also spotlighted the Kettle pizza oven, a grill attachment made in Massachusetts, among other items. In doing so, he challenged summit participants to develop more well-considered domestically produced goods and pitch them to Walmart.

“Let’s dream big and work hard,” he said.

Michael Bender, evp and COO, global e-commerce, pointed out that Walmart continues to refine its Made in the U.S.A. initiatives. He pointed to a store within a store on where shoppers can find Made in the U.S.A. products in one place. He noted that the website also offers product origin videos and encouraged summit participants to send more such material Walmart’s way. Younger consumers particularly react well to such videos, he observed.

He noted that Walmart is redoubling efforts to get the word out on U.S.-made product effectively.

“Our customers want transparency and authenticity, and we’re going to give them that,” he said.

Bender added that the company is improving the listings and information on the site, having initiated a more robust quality assurance effort.

He also noted that it is making efforts to ensure U.S.-made products are easier to find. “We’re replacing our previous Made in the U.S.A. badge with a new logo that will help the items show up better in searches,” he said.

In addition, Bender introduced summit participants to “our newspaper circular of the future,” Walmart’s digital EDLP catalog. The catalog the week before the summit featured a U.S. manufacturing back cover including private label tea light candles, once manufactured in Poland and now made in Dublin, VA, in another initiative to raise the profile of products that are made in the United States.

Walmart is moving to find new ways of thinking about the value of Made in the U.S.A. products across its operations. At the summit, Charles Redfield, evp and chief merchandising officer at Sam’s Club, cited the example of an initiative, first conceived in late 2014, to move the licensed Margaritaville brand into housewares. To do so using overseas sourcing would take a year, pushing introduction to the holiday season at least. However, Margaritaville housewares hit Sam’s Clubs after just 90 days of development, to substantial success, because the retailer helped put the brand owner together with a manufacturer in the United States, he said.

With its summits, its open call events and its $250 billion domestic sourcing initiative, Walmart has taken a lead position among retailers in promoting American manufacturing.

Editor’s Note: Walmart isn’t alone in building domestic sourcing initiatives, and for more on other retailer initiatives see tomorrow.

For more on Walmart’s Made in the U.S.A. initiatives, see the July 6 issue of HomeWorld Business. The issue’s Made in U.S.A. report also features category-by-category coverage of housewares vendors and their American-made efforts.