If you have a product to sell and you think you are ready to play with the big kids, it might be time to approach Walmart to see if you can get your merchandise on its shelves. If you already have had sales success with large retailers, have positive customer feedback and a sought-after product with effective packaging, Walmart might decide you’re in. The retail giant offers national or local distribution, and each of them has its own set of requirements.
National Supplier Program
Assess your finances and distribution capabilities. If you are accepted into the national Walmart program, you could find that you need to ramp up production and distribution quickly and on a large scale. Walmart will require that you prove your financial strength first. The buyer uses his expertise and knowledge to forecast how well your product will sell, and then he works with you to determine if your manufacturer can handle the volume and if you can handle the upfront cost.
Go to the Walmart corporate website at corporate.walmart.com. Click the "Suppliers" link at the top of the page, the "Apply to Be a Supplier" link on the left sidebar and then "Product Suppliers" from the menu that drops down. Use the information found on the page to assess your business capabilities to ensure that you can handle all of Walmart’s supplier requirements. You will be asked to acquire universal product codes for all of your products, obtain a credit report on your company, comply with Walmart’s food safety audits, if applicable, and product safety quality assurance testing. Purchase the appropriate technology so that you can participate in electronic data interchange and security source tagging. Contact your insurance company to ensure you are eligible for all of the insurance that Walmart may require.
Click the "Apply" button at the bottom of the page. This should take you to Walmart’s retail link website. Select your country and the country you want your products distributed in on the retail link page. Read the agreement carefully and then click the "Agree" button. Fill out the form with all necessary information about your company and your products, upload digital images of your products, and then click "Submit."
Wait for a response from the Walmart buyers. If they are interested in your product, you may be required to go to the corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to give a 45-minute presentation about why your product would be a good fit for its stores.
Local Supplier Program
Choose the local Walmart that you would like to see your product in. Contact the store’s manager to arrange a meeting. Demonstrate to the store manager why your product would be a good fit, that you have the ability to keep up with demand and that you have proven product that consumers already show an affinity for.
Wait for a response from the Supplier Administration group at Walmart. If the local store manager does think your product is a good fit for his store, he sends your information up to the group to get the process started. If you have any questions about the process while waiting to hear back from Supplier Administration, contact the store manager directly.
Fill out the questionnaire sent to you by the Walmart Supplier Administration group, and return it as quickly as possible. If your information passes muster with them, they will pass it along to the buyers responsible for selecting merchandise for that particular store, and you will hear from them with more information about how to proceed.
If your company produces books, CDs, magazines or tapes, you should not fill out the online form when applying for the national program. Call 1-800-999-0904 instead to get more information.
If your product is not already patented, you might want to get that taken care of before you apply to any Walmart program. Walmart clearly states on its retail links site that you may lose some of the rights to your product if you put it in the Walmart program without a patent. If you are unsure of how to proceed, consult your attorney.
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