What is Walmart Open Call?

Learn about:

  • Walmart and its suppliers
  • Open Call and how it works
  • The importance of Open Call to entrepreneurs
  • The events and outcomes of 2020 Open Call

On October 1, 2020, Walmart opened up for new entrepreneurs virtually for the first time. Walmart received over 4,800 applications and invited 850 potential suppliers to showcase their products in the first-ever virtual Open Call. Here’s what every CPG and entrepreneur needs to know about Open Call.

What Walmart means to entrepreneurs

Walmart is the largest retailer in the world, with over 11,000 stores and clubs globally. The retailer is also the world’s largest company by revenue, totaling over $514 billion in 2019. It is the largest private employer, with over 2.2 million employees.

In 2013, the retail giant created an initiative to put money back into American industry. To this end, Walmart has committed to purchasing $250 billion in U.S.-made products for its stores and eCommerce business by 2023.

Walmart believes that small businesses are the future and that American-made products are at the crux of Walmart’s values. The retail giant started as a five-and-dime in Bentonville, AR, and opened its first Walmart Discount City store in 1962. Sam Walton wanted to sell the best products at the lowest prices to serve the consumer better.

Many of Walmart’s initiatives are consumer-driven. Its compliance programs aim to bring suppliers’ products to the consumer when the consumer needs it, for the lowest cost, and defect-free. Sam Walton has stated that the company’s official purpose is to “lower the cost of living for everyone [and] give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”

What is Open Call?

To achieve its goal of purchasing more U.S. products, Walmart created its first Open Call in 2013. Walmart makes Open Call applications available to all entrepreneurs who have products made, sourced, grown, or assembled in the United States. This event allows entrepreneurs to go to Walmart directly and pitch their products to the retailer’s buyers.

The purpose of Open Call is to bring U.S. manufacturers to Walmart shelves or to build a private label partnership with the retailer. Open Call is also an excellent opportunity to learn about Walmart, including what buyers look for when purchasing products and how Walmart does business with its suppliers.

Open Call is different from tradeshows, as the entrepreneur goes to Walmart instead of trying to attract the retailer to its booth or display. Walmart believes that this helps companies hone their presentations to appeal directly to the retailer’s wants and needs. 

Walmart also features break-out sessions on marketing as a Walmart supplier, growing a product following within Walmart, accessing capital, and creating a digital market. Open Call attendees have the opportunity to hear from Walmart executives as well as celebrities. 

Why is Open Call important?

Open Call is important to the U.S. economy, local communities, and small- and medium-sized businesses as a significant growth opportunity. Walmart committed to investing in U.S. jobs and industry seven years ago, and Open Call is just one tool the retailer is using to boost job creation and U.S. manufacturing. 

Open Call allows for businesses of all sizes to apply to become Walmart suppliers. Open Call opens otherwise closed doors and caters to small- and medium-sized companies, especially CPGs, so that they get the same opportunities as larger corporations. Walmart wants to help smaller companies to grow, so the retailer welcomes applications from these companies.

Walmart uses Open Call to help with local communities by providing more job growth and industry. Locally sourced products are also more likely to have more robust supply chains, so these businesses will be more capable of complying with Walmart’s standards for excellence. Local supply chains also mean less expense in shipping and procurement, and suppliers may pass on these savings to the consumer.

Entrepreneurs who come to Open Call often encompass innovation, ingenuity, passion, and energy that Walmart values in its suppliers. Walmart thrives on being a cutting edge retailer, and new, unique products that fill everyday needs help maintain and grow that edge. Open Call allows Walmart to find up-and-coming products and solutions for consumers.

Small companies represent 99.7% of all U.S. businesses, and these companies help grow local economies by employing 44% of the U.S. workforce. Open Call helps small businesses achieve success and grow their outreach by selling their products in stores around the country and online.

What happened during the 2020 Open Call event?

This year, RangeMe was instrumental in streamlining the application process for Open Call. The CEO and founder of RangeMe, Nicky Jackson, said in a statement to WFMZ News, “It’s an outstanding opportunity to help emerging U.S. brands take the next step on their product journey from idea to shelf, which is the foundation of RangeMe. To simultaneously assist one of the world’s most innovative retailers facilitate new product discovery is a win for all parties involved.”

Laura Phillips, the Walmart senior vice president for global sourcing and U.S. manufacturing, told StoreBrands.com that “For the first time, this year’s Open Call event will be virtual, enabling even broader participation from potential new suppliers. We know how important this opportunity is for many small businesses, especially this year, and we are looking forward to seeing the new product submissions and meeting potential new suppliers.”

In the past, Walmart has held its Open Call event at its headquarters in Bentonville, AR. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, the event was virtual. Holding the event online helped many entrepreneurs showcase their products better, as they had more tools at their disposal. A virtual event also meant that buyers could meet with more applicants, as there was no travel limitation.

The numbers:

  • 4,800 entrepreneurs applied for Open Call this year
  • 44% more meetings occurred this year
  • 850 potential suppliers attended virtually
  • 67% more businesses presented this year
  • 56% of these businesses self-report as diverse
  • 2,100 people joined the General Session online
  • 34,000 visitors viewed the Open Call videos throughout the day
  • 100% of the events and meetings were virtual
  • 175 applicants received “yes” cards
  • 450 applicants are under consideration

Because there were no physical constraints on space, Walmart could meet with more businesses directly in one-on-one events, allowing them to showcase their products more effectively. Walmart also made the Open Call business seminars available to the general public online. The retailer has posted these on Walmart’s YouTube channel.

Many Open Call applicants are taking advantage of Walmart’s Marketplace as online sellers. Walmart encouraged all participants with what they deem “shelf-stable” products to sell their wares online, including Walmart.com and SamsClub.com. 

This year’s Open Call also had some celebrities drop in to talk to Open Call attendees. 

  • Missy Franklin, a 5-time Olympic Gold Medal swimmer, joined the General Session to talk about how perseverance, confidence, and believing in oneself and one’s product can bring businesses success. 
  • Snoop Dogg dropped in to discuss the impact and importance of American manufacturers and how they shape the U.S. economy. 
  • Chef Robert Irvine shared some advice on how businesses can pivot during times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Many governors and other state officials from key manufacturing states, including Puerto Rico and Arkansas, discussed how Walmart brings jobs and opportunities to their communities.

Speaking with Open Call attendees

SupplyPike sat down with seven business leaders who have attended Walmart Open Call in the past to ask them about their experiences. We will share their insights in the article, What We Learned from Walmart Open Call Applicants.

Updated on October 13, 2020

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