Hundreds of inventors have flocked to Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville to find out if the country needs a few more secret sauces, prettier mouse pads or “instant hair gel” packets for the on-the-go clubber.
The 500 businesses selected to take part in Walmart’s fourth annual “Open Call” Wednesday have already been offered spots on the company’s online portals, as it battles Amazon for billions of dollars in revenue. Visits with Walmart’s marketing team, though, could land any number of entrepreneurs shelf space in nearly 4,700 brick-and-mortar stores.
“It’s a high-stakes game,” Scott Hilton, Walmart’s executive chief revenue officer for e-commerce, said as the meeting opened.
“You may not receive a deal, but you have a chance to spend 30 minutes with a Fortune 1 buyer,” Walmart spokesman Scott Markley said ahead of the daylong meeting intended to increase jobs at American companies. “They know more about the market for the product than you do.”
Amazon on Wednesday held its own event for online sellers. Through its portal, it gives any would-be sellers step-by-step online guidance on how to receive and fulfill orders.
With auditions, Walmart does it differently, and its physical stores handle a finite number of goods. Bringing potential sellers to headquarters for Wednesday’s crash course in marketing reinforces Walmart’s path to making money.
“A little margin on a lot of volume. Not a lot of margin on a little volume,” Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon said.
McMillon’s audience Wednesday included all sorts of businesses. Former NFL football player Jarvis Green wants to sell restaurant-quality shrimp and seafood. Micah Specialty Foods, of Cleveland, features a kitchen marinade that originated in the West African nation of Ghana. Jessica Gore, of Dallas, brought a cleaning spray for little kids’ fingers.
“We want to make deals for products across the board,” Markley said. “We’re looking at toys. Food. Apparel.”