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Walmart holds U.S. manufacturing summit
August 14th, 2014
DENVER – Walmart executives kicked off a two-day U.S. Manufacturing Summit on Thursday, a gathering of 1,400 suppliers, government officials, industry experts, investors, bankers and others invited by the company to discuss ways to revitalize U.S. manufacturing.
The conference at the Colorado Convention Center here was the second such event since Walmart’s 2013 pledge to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next decade.
Walmart, which had $476 billion in revenue last year, estimates that it will spend $250 billion through 2023 to buy American products to sell through its 11,000 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries and e-commerce websites in 10 countries.
The Boston Consulting Group Inc. has calculated that the $250 billion investment by Walmart could create a million jobs in manufacturing and related services.
More and better jobs for Americans benefits Walmart by boosting its customers’ spending power, Doug McMillon, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said at the outset of the conference on Thursday.
"We want customers with great jobs," he said.
McMillon also urged manufacturers to buy into Walmart’s “low-margin, high-volume” business model.
Walmart has been promoting its manufacturing initiative as a way to return jobs to American factory workers and boost local economies.
The commitment could help dispel one popular perception of Walmart — that the retailer has played a significant role in crippling the U.S. manufacturing sector by sourcing so many of its products from China and other developing economies.
But Walmart executives and some industry analysts point out that making things in the United States can be a smart business move, considering the increase in efficiency of the supply chain and given the narrowing difference in manufacturing costs between domestic and Chinese suppliers.
The Boston Consulting Group found that China's cost advantage in manufacturing has narrowed over the past decade. Average costs in China are now just 5% lower than those in the United States, the consultants said, compared to China’s 14% advantage in 2004.
The Denver summit includes 400 private meetings in which manufacturers and suppliers will confer with economic development officials of different states to discuss locations for new or relocating facilities.
Last year’s summit, in Orlando, Fla., produced commitments for manufacturing investments from several companies, including industrial conglomerate General Electric Co., home hardware and lighting products manufacturer Hampton Products International Corp., and leggings and sleepwear supplier Kayser-Roth Corp.