Walmart Holds Open Call 2017, 500 Made in USA Companies Compete for Store Shelf Space

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

Recently, 500 companies — mostly small businesses and startups — went to Walmart (NYSE:WMT) company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to pitch their products to company buyers.

If they’re selected, they’ll get to sell their products at Walmart stores and on the retailers website. It could mean huge growth for those small companies. But there are challenges involved as well.

This is the fourth Open Call event Walmart has held.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

This year, Walmart is specifically looking for American companies and is promoting American manufacturing. So companies that sell products that are made in America could have a good chance of getting their products placed in Walmart stores or even getting the opportunity to manufacture some of Walmart’s private label products.

Walmart Open Call 2017

Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart vice president for U.S. Sourcing and Manufacturing said in a statement, “While finding products our customers want is a year-round focus for our buying teams, Walmart’s annual Open Call is a special opportunity to connect our buyers with companies that are manufacturing products in the U.S. and to identify new and unique product solutions.”

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

American manufacturing has been experiencing a resurgence in some sectors. So this type of open call allows Walmart to potentially tap into some interesting new markets while also taking advantage of some of the positive public perception that often comes with supplying American-made products and supporting job growth and the U.S. economy.

But for the businesses in attendance, the opportunity could be even more significant.

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer. So getting products featured on store shelves or on could provide a huge sales boost.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

And the significance of that opportunity was not lost on the small businesses in attendance, some of which went to extra lengths to put on a great presentation for their products.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

In fact, nearly 100 companies received deals on the spot. And dozens more will continue to have conversations with Walmart about future opportunities.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

The companies that receive deals from Walmart could also gain some local notoriety and extra coverage for their participation.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

Overall, this type of event provides a unique opportunity for small businesses, many of which face major roadblocks in getting their products in front of large retailers or corporations.

Of course, this also means that those small businesses that receive deals will need to step up production in order to meet that increased demand. But for the businesses that can take on the extra work, it’s a potentially huge opportunity.


Eat USA Seeks to Boost Small Food Businesses

eat USA (1)

As a local business producing or selling food or other culinary products in the U.S., you may already have a dedicated regional following.

But targeting a larger national audience, even with a website, presents some challenges. You may already ship your products to a few distant customers. Still, executing the kind of targeted marketing you need to grow a substantial customer base outside your local following requires research and (probably) added cost.

But this is part of the pitch of an ambitious startup called Eat USA.

To consumers, the company bills itself as marketing products that were “caught, made, grown or produced in the fifty United States.” The idea is to partner with producers and manufacturers of local food and culinary products and make them available to a broader customer base through a single website targeting a very unique market.

Developed in 2000 by Arthur Gregory, Eat USA had a rocky start. Headquartered in the World Trade Center, the first kiosk was scheduled to open in September 2001.

Terrorist attacks put an end to those plans. The entire inventory had been stored in the nearby A & M Roadhouse and dust from the fall of the buildings contaminated it all. The entire inventory had to be destroyed.

The current business model has Eat USA listing products on its website, then forwarding the order to the appropriate company to drop ship to the customer, requiring less storage of inventory. Eat USA has signed up for a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for marketing. Its goal is $20,000.

In a conversation with Small Business Trends, CEO Gregory explains, “We will be the only gift store similar to 1-800-Flowers, Omaha Steaks and Harry and David’s fruit boxes”

Hundreds of manufacturers have made tentative deals with Eat USA to list their wares on the website. Products range from coffee grown in Hawaii to lobsters from Maine to steak from Wisconsin. Specialty items include a gin making kit, Souper Sampler and an “Aqua Farm.”

Gregory says, “In the past, we have asked our vendors to allow a three month testing period in order to get a feel for your product and make sure it will work for us. We do this by listing your chosen products on our beautifully designed Web store. The listings will include the product image as well as the product SKU, product name, description, and price.

“Our customers will then purchase directly from our website and you would be notified via e-mail with all of the order and customer information in order for you to ship it to the customer on our behalf. We would pay you up front for our agreed price on the product as well as the cost of shipping. Upon completing the testing phase, we would buy directly from your company in bulk if we feel the product and your company is a good fit.”

The company plans on eventually expanding into kiosks in malls and airports.