Open Call Brings Retail Hopefuls to Pitch Walmart

One of Walmart’s top annual events takes place this week as the company welcomes some of the nation’s top retail entrepreneurs to Northwest Arkansas.

The Walmart Open Call starts Tuesday at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers and wraps up Wednesday at the company’s Home Office in Bentonville. It’s possible to watch the opening session live at 8 a.m. Wednesday, and that should provide great insight into how the day will play out.

Company owners who believe their retail product is ready to make a big splash will be at the Open Call, and it’s always an impressive group. After meeting with Walmart retail sales and product experts, many of those companies’ owners will find they have a product strong enough to get on the shelves of Walmart stores or to have it be available through Walmart.com.

Hundreds of people traveled to Bentonville to attend the Walmart Open Call in 2018 and to learn more about what it takes for entrepreneurs to gain the company’s attention.

Hundreds of people traveled to Bentonville to attend the Walmart Open Call in 2018 and to learn more about what it takes for entrepreneurs to gain the company’s attention.

Walmart in 2013 announced that it would purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over a 10-year period. By 2023, Walmart has pledged to purchase approximately $250 billion in products that support the creation of American jobs.

There are some nice stories being told about the hope that comes with being invited to pitch products at the Walmart Open Call, as it creates an incredible opportunity. A New Hampshire woman, for example, wants her Cold Bee Gone that uses honey as a cold remedy to be made available by Walmart, she told the New Hampshire Union Leader. In Tacoma, Wash., The News Tribute shared information about two entrepreneurs who will be in Bentonville to pitch products this week.

It's the stories from past years that demonstrate the power of the annual Walmart event, one that can deliver a product with limited distribution to a national audience. There are some great stories about past successes on an America At Work page maintained by Walmart.

The 2018 event last June produced several companies that now see their products sold by Walmart, including Linda’s Salsa. The Illinois company’s owner, Linda Putnam, saw her salsa’s distribution swell after success at last year’s Open Call. After she traveled to Bentonville, Walmart made the salsa available in six stores, and she’s been allowed to grow her business at her own pace. It’s boosted her sales by $800 to $1,000 in a typical week, she said.

Putnam said the Walmart store managers are kind, and they’re proud to see a local product on store shelves.

“It’s been a great opportunity for us,” Putnam said. “It’s been cool.”

The Walmart Open Call is all about potential. Products may start small with distribution in a few stores, but the most successful entrepreneurs find their products made available in more and more stores and through Walmart.com. Putnam said she wants to eventually have a larger operation to manufacture her salsa, but she isn’t interested in handing the work off to someone else as she wants to ensure the quality of the product doesn’t decline.

Pictured at the top: Holsum de Puerto Rico representatives talk with buyers from Walmart at the 2018 Open Call. The company was successful in its effort to get its cookies that are a category leader in Puerto Rico on the shelves of Walmart stores in Florida and other southeastern states.