Wal-Mart Hears Pitches for U.S.-Made Goods

Executives with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville met with more than 500 suppliers of manufactured goods at company headquarters Tuesday.

The retailer called the occasion its "Made in USA Open Call" and said it was an opportunity for manufacturers to pitch their goods to Wal-Mart buyers. Wal-Mart announced last year an initiative to buy an additional $250 billion of American-produced goods for sale in its Walmart and Sam's Club stores and on Walmart.com.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe made opening remarks at the event and said the recent trend of companies selling American-produced goods shows that American manufacturing isn't "dead."

"A country that doesn't make stuff can never be great," Beebe said. "As much as I understand the service industry and how significant it is … the manufacturing sector of this country has always been the backbone of what makes America great."

Beebe said with rising energy costs and increasing labor costs in Asia, it's a perfect opportunity to bring manufacturing back to the United States.

"We produce stuff better with a higher quality and with a better workforce than anybody in the world," Beebe said. "There is nobody who can match America when we set our minds to it."

Bill Simon, the CEO of Wal-Mart USA, said it was up to companies to lead the way to bring manufacturing back to the states. Wal-Mart intends to help increase home production by increasing orders from existing vendors and adding new vendors, which is what Tuesday's meetings were about.

All the suppliers pitched items that were produced or grown in the United States.

"It's time for American businesses to lead," Simon said. "We have to do it. We can't wait.

"It's not a Wal-Mart issue; it's not a supplier issue. This is an American issue. It is an economical issue."

Members of Wal-Mart's media staff tweeted out examples of vendors who had earned contracts with the company after Tuesday's pitches, but Michelle Gloeckler, the company's executive vice president of U.S. manufacturing, said an exact count of how many new products were ordered wouldn't be known for several days.

Gloeckler said Wal-Mart officials had more than 800 30-minute meetings scheduled with representatives of the vendors, about half of which had never done business with the company. Gloeckler said Wal-Mart expects many of the new products to be available in stores by the holiday season or even sooner on Walmart.com.

One vendor, John Cundy of JPC Products of Detroit, said on a conference call that Wal-Mart ordered 50,000 units of his Trash Ease, a portable trash-bag holder.

Cundy said he sold 20,000 units in 2013 and 42,000 so far this year.

"Today was a pretty big day," Cundy said. "I'm actually floating right now."