Walmart Supplier Pain Points: Turning Obstacles into Achievements

By James Harris

Selling to Walmart can be the dream that gets a person out of bed each day, or it can be an all-encompassing challenge with failure looming around every corner.

For brands seeking their way onto Walmart.com or into the more than 4600 Walmart US stores, that prospect can seem almost too good to be true. But for many who have recently made that jump, the challenges and pain points can seem insurmountable. Many new suppliers to Walmart exclaim, “Where are the helpful cheat sheets,” “Why isn’t this more simple,” “Where do I go for help?”

The opportunities possible at Walmart truly are remarkable for an emerging brand. In 2020 (fiscal year ending January 2021), Walmart saw revenue of $559.2B globally, while US comp store sales grew +8.7%. In that year alone, Walmart as a global corporation added $35B in year-over-year sales growth. Considering that in any given year Walmart is one of the largest companies in the world, if not the largest, this degree of growth on top of an already enormous business is an incredible opportunity for any brand looking to expand their footprint in the US and around the world.

Looking at it another way, there are only 24 countries in the world whose GDP exceeds Walmart’s corporate revenue. The opportunity, like the company, is vast and anything but simple. Piloting this immense opportunity rather than having it knock you flat requires forethought, planning, and proactive change. Getting the attention of merchants at the world’s largest retailer and navigating Walmart’s sprawling company, systems, and world-class supply chain require doing things a bit differently.

This is why High Impact is kicking off a series of articles highlighting the various pain points of working with Walmart. Our goal is to share industry leaders’ ideas and solutions to those pain points.

As is usually the case, obstacles make us better if we learn and grow from them. These articles will be focused on pain points as a source for growth, not a target for complaints. Walmart is a public corporation whose purpose is providing value to their shareholders while saving customers money so they can live better. Sometimes this strategy goes hand-in-hand with a supplier’s business, and other times the two can conflict. The goal of this series is to pinpoint and explain what many suppliers have been able to accomplish at this industry-leading and incredibly innovative company, both during and after their transition from the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world to the largest omni-channel retailer.

Upcoming articles will focus on some of the following areas:

  • Walmart.com: Getting onto it, maintaining traction, and growing sales
  • Getting on the shelf: Keys to getting your item(s) carried in stores, including price point/EDLC, approaching Walmart successfully, establishing business outside of Walmart, Walmart Open Call, etc.
  • Maintaining and growing your business in stores through proactive communication
  • On-shelf availability: OTIF, forecasts, production planning, etc.
  • Communication with merchants: velocity goals (sales per store per week), understanding your brand’s place in the category, modular timing, Zoom, etc.

I am especially interested in what you readers have to say. What have been your pain points (past or current) when selling to Walmart? How have you forged your success? How have you seen your organization or another fail, and what have you learned from that? Feel free to leave comments on this article or direct message me your anonymous comments to incorporate into this series.