Almost two years ago, I had the opportunity to be part of Walmart’s biggest purchase order yet: $250 billion worth of products that support American manufacturing.
Earlier this week, I had the honor of giving an update on our progress at the Women’s Wear Daily Apparel & Retail CEO Summit in New York. While it was fitting to speak in the same city where we announced the commitment in January 2013, since then, the real work has been happening in places you may not immediately spot on a map: Winnsboro, South Carolina, and Circleville, Ohio – small towns where factories being built can change lives.
Clearly, it matters a lot to these communities where our products are made, but we’ve found that it matters to our customers, too. In fact, it’s second only to price, with 85% of our customers saying it’s important for retailers to carry products assembled or produced in the U.S.
As we’ve worked through the challenges and successes we’ve had in supporting this commitment, I’ve learned a lot – mostly that the industry is eager to find a way. But I also learned that it’s still more expensive to make some things in the U.S. With textiles in particular, competing on cost for manufacturing is challenging across every point: from spinning and weaving to dyeing and cut and sew.
We’re tackling these obstacles in many ways, the most recent one being the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund we launched this year. This $10 million fund is a partnership that helps drive research to make it both easier and more competitive to produce goods in the U.S. In August, we presented our first eight grants to universities, the majority of which are focused on textile innovation.
At the same time, we’re still signing deals and pushing toward our $250 billion goal. At this week’s summit, in fact, I announced several products that we’ve re-shored from overseas: footwear, bike helmets, bandages, lawn art, baby and pet products. These commitments are creating jobs across the country.
Take True Science, for example – which makes all-natural pet products and treats. We started carrying their products in 75 stores in 2012, and now they’re in all stores. Sales are up. True Science had just 20 employees in 2010, and now employs more than 300 people in their facilities in Idaho. In Brentwood, New York, we found a supplier to make our Great Value quick-clean mops – creating 23 jobs in that community. And from Wisconsin, we’ll be adding new NUK pacifiers to our stores in January. Many of NUK’s pacifiers were previously produced in Europe.
We still have a long way to go, but I’m confident we’ll get there.
Today’s conference focused on exploring how the ability to change and evolve is
crucial in today’s dynamic retail environment. The good news is that’s
something that’s always been part of Walmart’s DNA.