When measured by revenue, Walmart is the largest company in the world. With over $485 billion in revenue in 2016, Walmart is also the world’s largest retailer, and the largest overall company for the fifth year in a row.
According to Fortune, the company stocks more than 50 million products. With a global reach and massive sales opportunities, there is no surprise that both big and small businesses want their products on the shelf at Walmart stores. If you think getting your product sold by Walmart would be a great boost for your business, follow this guide to get started.
Walmart Wants to Stock American Products
Walmart is headquartered in the heart of America in Bentonville, Arkansas, the same city where Sam Walton opened his first Five and Dime store, which would ultimately lead to the over 11,000 stores it operates today.
In 2013, Walmart committed to increasing its sourcing of United States products by $50 billion over ten years. Less than halfway into the self-imposed ten-year deadline, US manufacturers, and particularly veterans, are in a great position to get their products sold at Walmart.
If your product is made in the USA, you have a head start over some international product manufacturers. However, that doesn’t mean you can just walk in the door and start selling. You need the right product at the right price with the right demand to get into Walmart.
Prepare Your Product for Walmart
In a Fast Company panel, several executives who sell in Walmart stores today shared their best tips to get on the Walmart shelf. Here are some highlights to keep in mind when preparing your Walmart pitch.
- Your product should fit into Walmart, not the other way around. Walmart has a successful business model, and they are unlikely to change their strategies for any vendor. If multibillion dollar companies like Proctor & Gamble have to follow the rules, so do you.
- Prepare your infrastructure. Getting your product to 11,000 stores, or just the 4,692 United States stores, requires the ability to meet Walmart’s demands. Your company will have to fill the shelves and meet replenishment needs following Walmart’s terms. Be prepared to scale big, or wait until you are ready.
- Understand the true costs of your products. Just because your patented widget requires $1.00 of materials doesn’t mean it costs $1.00 to make. Do an in-depth, fully attributed financial analysis to find the true cost to manufacture and distribute the product. That includes machines, maintenance, staff, technology, real estate, taxes, and every other cent that flows through your company. Walmart drives a hard bargain, so it is imperative to know your true break-even point.
Meet Walmart Vendor Minimum Guidelines
Walmart holds itself to certain standards for employment, environment, and other aspects of running its business. It holds vendors to minimum requirements as well. If you want to do business with Walmart, ensure your business meets these guidelines.
Start by registering your business with Dun & Bradstreet by obtaining a Dun & Bradstreet DUNS number. This is an important step in making any business legitimate and helps with the pursuit of credit, should your business ever require it. (Nav’s BusinessLauncher will guide you through the steps if you don’t know where to start.)
Also keep in mind that Walmart does not allow selling offensive products, adult products, gambling products, or any items that are government-issued or related to policy and military.
You must also meet minimum insurance requirements, follow merchandise and food safety guidelines, meet supply chain security requirements, and be willing to submit to a 3rd party audit.
For food, medication, supplements, and medical devices, suppliers must meet additional health and wellness requirements.
Apply to be a Walmart Supplier
Once you have dotted every i and crossed every t, it is time to start the application process. Walmart offers several channels to sell your product depending on your location, your product type, and Walmart’s needs. These are the primary methods to join Walmart as a vendor:
- National – Nationwide product sales
- Local – Sales in a local store or region
- Direct import – Sales of imported, foreign produced products
- eCommerce – Sales on Walmart.com and Sams.com
- Marketplace – 3rd party sales to customers at Walmart.com
Each has its own unique application and requirements, so you’ll have to do some more research depending on how you want to sell.
It may be a good idea to start as a local seller even if your product has national or international appeal. Doing so gets your foot in the door and gives you a little practice working with the retail giant before moving into thousands of stores. This gives you time to refine your processes, better understand your manufacturing flow, and prove to Walmart that you are indeed a great partner.
Learn more about Walmart on its supplier page to get a better understanding of the many requirements vendors are held to, including some statistics and information that will make your application more likely to succeed.
Be Responsive, Positive, And Helpful
Make a second copy of your Walmart National Supplier Program paperwork and grab a sample and head to your local Walmart store. Meet the local manager to discuss the Walmart local program. Ask good questions that show you have done your homework and build a relationship with local Walmart leaders. They may act as gatekeepers that can keep your product out of Walmart or give it the push it needs to gain attention from national buyers.
If Walmart is interested, a buyer will contact you for more details and information. If you hear from anyone at Walmart, respond as quickly as possible. Be positive and helpful in your responses to build strong relationships. Ultimately it’s those relationships that will help decide if your product gets nationwide shopper exposure at Walmart.
Complete any paperwork, meetings, audits, and other steps as quickly as possible. If you take the hard work from the buyers, they will notice and appreciate it. While it is never a guarantee, a happy buyer is a fast track to a successful relationship.
Walmart Can Make a Great Product a Huge Success
There are stories of entrepreneurs like Ben Rendo who took his Mighty Handle from a home packaged product to every Walmart store in the country. John Goscha found a way to sell his bulbs at Walmart.com. Getting into Walmart can be the lynchpin that takes a small product to the big time.
If you want to make the big time by selling at Walmart, you might be able to make it happen. With the right product at the right price and a little ingenuity, Walmart can bring your product to the masses. Now it’s just up to you to make it happen.
This article was originally written on September 18, 2017 and updated on November 12, 2020.