ECRM Q&A: Walmart’s Scott Gutche on the 2021 Virtual Open Call Event 4/8/2021
The application process for Walmart’s eigth annual Open Call is open, and the retailer is inviting entrepreneurs seeking to get their U.S.-manufactured products on Walmart shelves to apply for the opportunity to meet with Walmart buyers on June 30, 2021 via virtual pitch meetings.
The event will include similar programming to previous years. In addition to one-on-one pitch meetings with Walmart buyers, participants will have an opportunity to hear directly from Walmart executives and learn from company leaders during smaller breakout sessions designed to inform, empower and encourage supplier-hopefuls, as well as hear success stories from previous supplier participants.
The deadline to apply to participate in this year's Open Call for U.S.-manufactured products is April 30, and those suppliers that are accepted will be notified by May 21. The application and additional information about the event are available here.
In this interview, I speak with Scott Gutche, Senior Director of U.S. Manufacturing and Sourcing for Walmart, about this year’s Open Call program. Below is an edited Q&A from the interview, or you can watch the video below.
ECRM: How is this recently announced commitment on US manufacturing different than Made in USA Open Call?
Gutche: Walmart’s recent announcement of the $350B commitment to purchase U.S. made, grown and assembled products over the next 10 years is a new and refreshed commitment from what we started back in 2013. We believe now is a good time to lean even more into U.S. manufacturing to strengthen our local communities with stable, good paying manufacturing jobs. Open Call is the annual event that supports U.S. businesses of all sizes, but really attracts entrepreneurs and younger brands. This is our 8th Open Call event, it supports the larger 10 year commitment as one of the largest sourcing events Walmart puts on. This event will provide an opportunity to thousands of U.S. manufacturers to get onto Walmart shelves both in stores and online.
ECRM: Why is this commitment to US manufacturing happening now?
Gutche: The U.S. is more competitive now than it has been in decades. The cost of manufacturing overseas continues to rise faster than in the U.S. From shipping to wages to interruptions in the supply chain that we all just went through with Covid, the case for making things closer to where they are being consumed is getting easier to make. Who would have predicted a stalled transport in the Suez Canal, or the price of shipping containers going up 30-50 percent the last several months. There is a lot of work to do to get supply chains back in the U.S., and we aren’t saying it will be easy. But with automation, innovation and networks working together to take costs out of the supply chain, the U.S. can be competitive. We think we can help bring ideas, resources and networks together to accelerate this.
ECRM: Can you explain the “American Lighthouse” concept?
Gutche: We plan to unite key stakeholders in specific regions of the country to identify and overcome top-down barriers to U.S. production. These Lighthouses will bring together participants from the supplier community (including manufacturers and NGOs) as well as others from academia, and government and local economic development groups. By bringing together key regions and various stakeholders, we can make the supply chain more efficient. We have also identified priority categories to focus on: plastics, textiles, small electrical appliances all being our main focus as we kick off. The aim is to bring U.S. manufacturing back in a sustainable, long-term way.
ECRM: What steps are you taking to insure goods you source are actually made in the US?
Gutche: We have a substantiation plan in place to make sure the products suppliers are claiming are truly made, grown or assembled in the U.S. This process requires our suppliers to certify their product contains significant U.S. content, has substantially transformed in the U.S. and meets the definition as stated by the FTC. Our customers want items made in the U.S. and we need to make sure there is clear transparency. It is important for manufacturers to understand their upstream supply chain, how things are being made and where.
ECRM: What can we expect at this year’s US Open Call? How will it be different from years past?
Gutche: You can expect the same high level of enthusiasm from our merchants. They LOVE this day! For a merchant, meeting new suppliers and seeing new innovative items ALL DAY is the definition of a perfect day! Unfortunately the event will be virtual again, we would really like to have it in person, the supplier excitement level in the vendor hallways is unmatched in a typical year. But we will have fun and exciting things in which suppliers can participate. We want to make the day a worthy use of everyone’s time. We encourage suppliers to stick around and take advantage of the many resources shared that day beyond their product pitch meeting. Topics include: What’s on the mind of Walmart customers, creative ways to finance growth, and hearing from suppliers about life after Open Call, their journey and learnings.
ECRM: Why should a US manufactured supplier apply to US Open Call?
Gutche: Walmart merchants are experts in the field they buy for. As you know Wayne, Walmart is a large platform for brands. Put those two things together, and you have a very busy merchant on a daily basis. Its tough for new brands to get a meeting with a Walmart merchant. Open Call opens that access, and gives the supplier an opportunity they probably would not have had. It also offers great networking opportunities and gives businesses of all sizes a chance at their big break they’ve been working so hard for. So even if they don’t get a deal on June 30th, the connections they make could be the difference down the road.
ECRM: What is the process to do this?
Gutche: There are two easy avenues suppliers can take. One, suppliers can visit our Jobs in U.S. Manufacturing Portal (JUMP) website (engage.walmart-jump.com). One benefit of going to our corporate site is that we have included multiple resources to engage in while suppliers apply, such as requirements to do business with Walmart, FAQs on Open Call and they can even watch a recap from last year’s event. Suppliers can also visit RangeMe.com to create a profile and apply. And this is all for free. Getting started with RangeMe.com can improve their visibility to retailers like us, making it easier to get noticed even outside of Open Call. You all have been great partners in helping us bring the Open Call application process to life.
ECRM: Any final comments or closing inspiring comments?
Gutche: Mr. Sam said back in 1985 “I believe that our company can make a reasonably large contribution to providing more jobs within our country as a whole." And it’s even more exciting to watch small businesses become part of the Walmart supplier family and grow in ways that are unimaginable. I want everyone to know that this is achievable. Every year deals are made, connections are established and suppliers are better for participating. You know we can be as small or as large as a supplier needs us to be to impact their business. So I say, trust in your brand, prepare and practice, and bring your best. This can be YOUR day.