In what could be considered a nod to its early roots as the company known for buying and selling American made products, or a good public relations move, Walmart last week announced it would increase its purchase of U.S. made products by $50 billion over the next 10 years.
“At the heart of our national political conversation today is one issue: creating jobs to grow the economy,” said Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon, speaking at the National Retail Federation’s annual BIG Show. “We are meeting with our suppliers on domestic manufacturing and are making a strong commitment to move this forward.”
It’s a “popular misconception” that the majority of the products sold at Walmart and Sam’s Club come from countries other than the U.S., the company said in a press release. According to data from its suppliers, about two-thirds of what Walmart U.S. spends to buy products is for “items that are made here, sourced here, or grown here,” but there’s “room to do more,” the statement added.
The plan, according to Walmart, is to help grow U.S. manufacturing by “increasing certainty in the market,” something they aim to achieve by committing to buy more of what they already purchase here, such as paper products and sporting goods, and by helping textile, furniture and other vendors bring jobs sent overseas back to the U.S.
Signing longer-term purchase agreements will give suppliers more certainty about the value of bringing production back to the U.S., the company’s release said. The announcement comes at a time when some manufacturers are taking a harder look at rising labor and energy costs overseas to their bottom lines.
According to the New York Times, Simon said “a few manufacturers have even told Walmart privately that they have defined the ‘tipping points’ at which manufacturing abroad will no longer make sense for them.”
Simon added that Walmart sees a partnership between industry and government as a way to get more done. “I’ve talked with a number of governors, including the incoming chair of the National Governors Association, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, about how governors and retailers and manufacturers can drive this issue together. Governors from both sides of the aisle are enthusiastic about getting their constituents back to work.”
This summer, Walmart will help convene a manufacturing summit for stakeholders to work together and help accelerate these changes.
In terms of jobs and hiring, Simon said Walmart is helping part-time associates who want to be full time make that transition.
“We want all of our associates to find the career opportunities they want with Walmart,” Simon said. “We will make sure part-time associates have full visibility into full-time job openings in their stores and nearby stores, and that they always have first shot at those jobs. We will also bring more transparency to our scheduling system so part-time workers can choose more hours for themselves.”
He also said the company plans to hire as many as 100,000 honorably discharged veterans over the next five years. Beginning Memorial Day, Walmart will offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran in his or her first 12 months off active duty. Most of these jobs will be in Walmart stores and clubs, and some will be in distribution centers and the Home Office.
“Hiring a veteran can be one of the best business decisions you make,” said Simon. “Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick learners and team players. They are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.”