BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Hundreds of suppliers gathered at Walmart’s headquarters this month to pitch American-made products during the retailer’s fifth annual Open Call.
The company invited more than 450 businesses to meet one on one with buyers for a chance to get their products on store shelves.
Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., told the assembled hopeful, “I really do love this event because it’s a tool to be able to talk to all of you and think about the items.” He credited the suppliers — who came from 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia — with “innovations that our customers had been waiting for. Items that make our lives better.”
Bratspies said the suppliers “embody the hard work, the resourcefulness, the hope that this country was founded on. You represent, fundamentally, the pursuit of the American dream.”
The majority of attendees this year presented all-natural products for niche markets. There was a plant-based feminine care line, hummus that doesn’t need refrigeration, cloth diapers, creole spices and Worcestershire sauces.
“Investing in American jobs is a big part of Walmart’s strategy,” president and chief executive officer Doug McMillon told the group. “We want to surprise and delight customers with new and exciting products.
The freshness and innovation you bring to Walmart is essential to helping us win with customers.”
“American manufacturing is also a big part of how we’re investing and supporting local communities,” he added. “Walmart is committed to American renewal. We know that when we choose to sell products that have been made, assembled or grown in the U.S. that has a direct effect on the communities we serve.”
In 2013, Walmart made a commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products made, sourced or grown in the U.S., by 2023. Open Call underscores this commitment and is one way in which the company continues to invest in American jobs by supporting U.S. manufacturing. This year’s attendees included companies manufacturing a wide variety of products and featured diverse entrepreneurs — more than half self-identify as diverse, and nearly 25% of the businesses are women owned.
Entrepreneurs look to Open Call as “a chance to get the big break they have been looking for,” said Cindi Marsiglio, who serves as Walmart vice president for merchandising services and U.S. manufacturing. “We are proud of the supplier success stories from prior years and look forward to helping more entrepreneurs realize the American dream.”