From Sales Pitch to Shelf: A Merchant’s Advice

By Paul Burke
July 2, 2014
Walmart Supercenter Customer

Every week, my work is evaluated by 140 million bosses.

That’s because in product development at Walmart U.S., my most important focus is pleasing our customers. Clearly, everyone at the company works toward this goal in some way or another. But in merchandising, understanding our customers’ wants and needs is a science.  

On Tuesday, Walmart will open our doors to better serve our customers on one specific front: adding more great products that support American jobs. It’s our first Open Call event, where hundreds of U.S. suppliers will come to our headquarters and meet with Walmart buyers.

Have you ever wondered about a supplier’s journey from sales pitch to the shelf? As a merchant, I can tell you that there are definitely some points that suppliers hoping to sell to Walmart should consider.

First, go to a Walmart store.
Examine the products there, take a look at who’s shopping and ask yourself, why is Walmart the right place for my item?

Next, decide who the customer is for this product.
While I’ve listed this as the second step, it may actually be the most critical. Walmart’s customers are typically budget conscious and convenience oriented. Like I mentioned before, that’s 140 million people per week – and they’re all looking for great values.

Lastly, determine how the product should be presented in-store and/or online.
What’s the best way to get the attention of the customers you’re seeking – and what makes the most sense for your item? Is it a national or regional item? Should it be in one store, or at all of our more than 4,000 locations?

If the Walmart buyer and potential supplier are aligned on all of these points, the next questions are usually tactical: The next questions will be, how many can I get? What is the price? When can you ship the product? The Walmart buying team is collaborative. Your first meeting may not lead to an order – it’s simply the first step.

An example of a product that meets these expectations is our American flag t-shirt, supplied by Greensource. With Independence Day coming up, a mom can buy one for each member of her family of four for roughly $20 total. Is Walmart a place she can expect to find a graphic tee? Absolutely.  And even better – it’s made in the U.S., supporting our domestic manufacturing initiative I mentioned earlier.

On Tuesday, I can’t wait to see how we can exceed our customers’ expectations with many more great products that support American jobs.