Sam Walton opened his first Walmart store on July 2, 1962, and within 5 years he owned 24 stores. The rest is history! The company now employs 2.2 million people and serves about 245 million customers each week. That’s about ten times the population of Australia.
The culture of the company was built on the premise that Walmart could save the customer money, therefore allowing the customer to live a better life. Because of this, Walmart is famous for running the company on a shoestring. Their “shared room” policy when staff stay in hotels is quite famous, and they are notorious for paying badly. Yet it is not uncommon when a new store opens to find thousands of people applying for a couple hundred of jobs.
The Walmart Supply Chain
But Walmart is also famous for its supply chain strategy. Their drive to reduce prices through the supply chain existed long before the term became popular. They have 6,500 trucks that collect goods from suppliers, instead of suppliers delivering to them, and supplier performance is carefully managed on a day-to-day basis based on the standards set forth in the Walmart rule book.
The Walmart Rule Book
The Walmart rule book for suppliers is supposedly 46 pages long — yet it is the dream of many suppliers to have their goods sold in Walmart stores.
When the company expanded its supplier scorecard program from 15 questions to 100 in 2012, questions which were once generic became category specific—taking into account the differences between categories. And while the word ‘sustainability’ was added to their program over 10 years ago (with a focus on compact fluorescent lamps, laundry detergents and packaging), the spotlight was widened in the protection of the environment.
Walmart differs from other retailers because they tell suppliers exactly what is expected of them and then monitor their progress. Thanks to the Retail Link platform, each supplier can see the sales of their items week-by-week and the numbers that Walmart uses to evaluate profitability, while buyers can watch supplier trends by comparing like suppliers.
Empowering Suppliers With Data
When Walmart began empowering their suppliers with full access to their point-of-sale data through Retail Link, some people said that the balance of power would change, but from the early days, Sam Walton believed that developing partnerships with suppliers would result in a win for both. In this light, the scorecard has to be seen as a facilitator to bring suppliers and Walmart closer, as well as a means by which the supplier can improve sales through Walmart and strive to achieve other goals.
The relationship between Walmart and suppliers does not leave much space for “wiggle room.” Because of the transparency, buyers can never surprise suppliers about performance and suppliers can never muddy the water. Whether it is good, bad or mediocre, everyone is on the same page.
Every few weeks, Walmart offers a 3-hour webinar training course teaching suppliers how to use the capabilities of the scorecard, how to interpret the numbers, and the key factors that impact on results.
While many retailers are not quite up to Walmart’s speed, fortunately the days of adversarial relationships between supplier and retailer are gone. But it is up to the suppliers to play the game, bearing in mind that it is usually the retailer’s ball.
Are you prepared to sell in Walmart, knowing that they hold their suppliers to a high standard? Download our checklist to get ready for your first buyer meeting.
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A checklist for selling in the world's largest retailer.