In a bid to help overcome their reputation for selling cheap imported goods, Wal-Mart has spent the last two years hosting an annual event designed to attract domestic start-ups. The Made in USA “Open Call” gives small time entrepreneurs a shot at the big time: landing a product on the shelves of this retail giant.
McMillon’s Wal-Mart Overhaul
Since taking the reins of the superstore in 2014, Chief Executive Doug McMillon has been working to improve the big box retailer in ways that may have far-reaching impact. As always, Wal-Mart’s focus is on low pricing, but McMillon’s efforts are increasingly bringing American-made and American-assembled products back to the shelves.
The Open Call is a great way for McMillon and his team to meet with small businesses and allow companies that would have never gotten an audience with a retailer of Wal-Mart’s size to demonstrate their products in a speed-dating version of a marketing presentation. Products that are promising may receive some extra advice for marketing efforts, changes to packaging or even better name ideas.
Even the items that don’t make it into the store can still get a shot at success through Walmart.com. If they test well there, they might end up on shelves after all. Offering these borderline products through the website creates a way for Wal-Mart to try it before they buy it.
Easing Start-Ups into Deeper Waters
Most of the companies that make the cut are still really small, often run by less than a handful of people. That’s ok, according to the retailing giant. Wal-Mart is willing to ease these startups into the much more competitive marketplace that is their retail floor. Distribution often starts in just a few outlets that are local to the small companies’ distributors, so shipping and production aren’t so costly as to raise prices in the store.
As the product proves itself popular and the startup grows, Wal-Mart offers it to more stores. It’s simple startup math, but something Wal-Mart hasn’t considered in the past. Under McMillon’s leadership, Wal-Mart may find itself returning to its American-made roots, though, while supporting the little guys and redeeming itself in the public eye.