News / Economy

Denver Event Aims to Close Gap in Walmart's 'Made in USA' Push

FILE - Walmart pledged last year to buy an extra $250 billion in U.S.-made goods over the next decade, it appeared to be just what was needed to help move America's putative manufacturing renaissance from rhetoric to reality, May 29, 2014.
FILE - Walmart pledged last year to buy an extra $250 billion in U.S.-made goods over the next decade, it appeared to be just what was needed to help move America's putative manufacturing renaissance from rhetoric to reality, May 29, 2014.
Reuters

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which has pledged to buy an additional $250 billion in U.S.-made goods over the next decade, is hitting a snag as it tries to meet that promise: Some vendors keen to participate in the initiative complain that after decades of offshoring it has become impossible to domestically source even commonplace components for their products.

So America's largest retailer has invited dozens of small- and midsize manufacturers that aren't necessarily interested in having a direct relationship with Walmart to come to Denver this week for a two-day matchmaking event.

The goal? To connect Walmart vendors hungry for key parts with manufacturers that have idle plants - and to put those plants back to work cranking out components, like small electric motors or polyester yarn, that have become hard to find.

“We're going to try to match up [vendors] who are looking for component parts with factories that have capacity in the hopes that we can rebuild that supply chain that doesn't exist anymore,” said Michelle Gloeckler, the Walmart senior vice president in charge of the initiative.

Critics of the retailing giant are quick to claim that Walmart, which built its empire on low prices, is partially to blame for the sorry state of U.S. manufacturing.

Mary Bottari, a former trade analyst for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, says Walmart's push for cheap goods “has fueled a global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.” And the Economic Policy Institute, a union-friendly think tank, estimates Walmart's trade with China alone has cost the United States 200,000 jobs.

Walmart disputes those claims, and spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan says Boston Consulting Group has estimated that the domestic-sourcing initiative will create 1 million jobs in manufacturing and related service jobs.

Zippers and snaps

The “Made in USA” program was conceived as a way to help Walmart win back customers who have defected in recent years to even cheaper competitors such as Dollar Tree and Dollar General. So far the effort has failed to stem a five-quarter-long decline in U.S. sales.

Walmart says the 18-month-old program is a winner with customers. It hopes the Denver event, which has attracted 100 component part manufacturers as well hundreds of existing and wannabe Walmart vendors, will allow it to rapidly increase the number of U.S.-made products available in its more than 4,200 U.S. stores.

But the event is also a tacit acknowledgment that the “Made in USA” pledge is harder than it might have seemed when it was announced last year.

Not only are some raw materials and components hard to find, but many of the companies tempted to participate in the domestic-sourcing program are unprepared to do business with Walmart and its storied - but complex - inventory control and logistics system.

Walmart's suppliers say difficulties with the program do not invalidate the idea. A number of factors, including rising wages in China, plummeting productivity-adjusted wages at home and a new appreciation for short, responsive supply chains, mean they can compete with Chinese rivals.

“By eliminating the ocean freight, what we've done is lower the overall cost of goods. So I can not only beat Chinese prices, I can obliterate them,” says Keith Scheffler, president of Creative Things, an Arkansas toymaker that recently shuttered its last Chinese plant.

Still, vendors say they are forced to go overseas for such commonplace items as zippers and snaps.

Element Electronics, which makes flat-screen TVs for Walmart, has moved incrementally after finding “there was no known existing domestic supply base” when it moved assembly back to the United States, says Chief Executive Officer Mike O'Shaughnessy.

The company started simple, focusing on things like packaging materials. Now it is seeking U.S.-made suppliers of plastic and metal parts.

O'Shaughnessy figures three years may pass before domestic suppliers can supply all the parts Elements needs.

Supply-chain problems aren't the only challenge Walmart vendors face when they join the “Made in USA” push.

The retailer's “Retail Link” system presents vendors with a torrent of real-time sales, inventory and purchase information that they need to learn how to analyze so Walmart can minimize in-store inventories while keeping shelves stocked.

It's a difficult balancing act that even sophisticated suppliers like Mel Redman, a former senior Walmart executive who runs Redman and Associates, a toy manufacturer that supplies the retailer, struggle to achieve.

“Everything works backwards,” he says.

“What a vendor needs to learn to do is to work from must-arrive-by date backwards through the production schedule, lead time and lag time. It's very complicated.” 

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8893
JPY
USD
118.31
GBP
USD
0.6660
CAD
USD
1.2459
INR
USD
61.427

Rates may not be current.