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Sustainability, Business, and the Red Queen Effect

The Red Queen, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, told Alice that she couldn’t stand still — she had to run as fast as she could just to stay where she was. “Now, here, you see,” she told Alice, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

Biologist Leigh Van Valen thought of the Red Queen when he developed a statement about evolution: no matter how well a species has adapted to its current environment, it must continue to evolve because its competitors in its space are also evolving. There is no point at which it is secure enough to rest on its laurels and feel confident that it has conquered its environmental niche.

Many people have seen a similarity in business, and Jeff Amerine described sustainability, in the most recent episode of 8th & Walton’s Saturday Morning Meeting, as a “Red Queen problem.” Suppliers, in other words, have to keep innovating and improving in order to be in as good a position tomorrow as they are in today.

Jeff Amerine spoke with The Sustainability Consortium‘s Dr. Jon Johnson and Dr. Sarah Lewis. TCS, pronounced “tissy,” is working on a Sustainability Measurement and Reporting System (SMRS), a framework which will allow consistent communication within and among industries.

Currently, there is no common, agreed upon way to measure and discuss sustainability. Different groups will assign different levels of importance to various aspects of sustainability and there are no shared benchmarks suppliers can use to judge their progress.

This can lead to greenwashing, accusations of greenwashing, and plain old confusion on the part of consumers and suppliers alike. The lack of consistent measurement and language makes it hard to compare one product with another or to identify points along the supply chain where meaningful change can be made.

“I think companies should expect to have more conversations with buyers at Walmart and other retailers around sustainability,” says Johnson.

Having useful conversations requires a shared language and a shared understanding of sustainability issues, and that is where TSC comes in. “The tools that TSC develops are based in lifecycle assessment and are being used to really improve that decision making capability,” Lewis points out.  “What issues should I focus on? Where can I make improvements? What practices can I implement to really create efficiency — but also to be able to communicate progress and really market that progress to customers?”

Listen to the entire conversation, plus much more, by watching the video above or enjoying the podcast below.


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Work is a Beautiful Thing

Walmart’s “Work is Beautiful” campaign ranges from individuals like Patrick to Walmart’s Made in America initiatives. Mike Rowe narrated one in the character of an American factory looking forward to the U.S. manufacturing renaissance: “We will build things, and build families, and build dreams. It’s time to get back to what America does best. Because work is a beautiful thing.”

12 million people watched the video above on YouTube in the first week; presumably, people also saw it on TV without having to seek it out. The focus on an individual with disabilities excited nonprofits and individuals, and discussions of the commercial filled more than a million web pages.

The ad campaign stirred up some controversy. There were those who called it hypocritical for Walmart to champion American factories when low price emphasis was one of the things that led to the prevalence of foreign-made goods, and those who saw “Work is Beautiful” as a reminder that poorly paid jobs were better than none. But most responses to the ads were positive. Some commentators said that their opinions of Walmart had been changed for the better by the ads. One headline read, “‘Work is a beautiful thing': Powerful 60 second video renews Americans’ pride.”

The campaign, from Saatchi & Saatchi, was certainly high in quality and the stories presented are touching. It may be that the reason this campaign fared so well is that it resonates with basic American values: hard work, independence, and taking the initiative.

Walmart culture fits well with American values. The “Work is a Beautiful Thing” ads reminded Americans of that fact.

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Meeting Consumers Where They Are

shopperFor years, we’ve envisioned customers in the store, roaming the aisles, perusing the messages we prepare for them on the shelves. Our message has been crafted by us and our competitors — our neighbors on the shelf — and by the retailers we work with. It has been shared through cardboard, paper, and plastic, with a bit of word of mouth thrown in. We’ve broadcast it on TV and radio and printed it in magazines and newspaper supplements, but we’ve generally had control of it.

Times have changed. If your customers are small business owners shopping at Sam’s Club, they have all these electronic devices (Small Business Tech Survey):

  • 87% have desktop computers.
  • 84% have laptops.
  • 74% have smartphones.
  • Only 55% have cell phones other than smartphones.
  • Only 41% use tablets for business.
  • Only 78% use landlines — still more than smartphones, but wouldn’t we have expected 100% not long ago?

70% of these business customers say that technology is very important in the success of their companies. 85% buy supplies online.

Are your customers family shoppers in Walmart? Here’s how they use technology (UPS study):

  • 61% prefer to research purchase decisions online via a desktop computer, plus another 21% prefer to use a mobile device — only 13% would rather research in a store. (A few people use other methods.)
  • 55% prefer to shop online, no matter where they research products.
  • 25% of mobile users search for information before they shop every week.
  • Only 21% both research and shop in physical stores.
  • Only 40% of consumers who research purchases online start their searches at a store’s websites.

In short, we can no longer work with that mental image of the shopper in the store reading the message we’ve put on our packages.

We have to think about the shopper in the store checking online reviews. The shopper at work researching products over lunch before coming to the store to pick up a decided-upon purchase. The shopper browsing information provided by bloggers and social media friends before making on online purchase.

Is your strategy including all these shoppers? Are you getting your message to them where they are? Check out our Selling to Walmart classes to hone your skills.

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5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Online Training

online trainingThere are plenty of excellent reasons to choose online training. But once you’ve made that decision, how can you make sure you get the most out of the training?

  • Be prepared. Have the hardware (including webcam), the password, the battery time or charger, and a means (electronic or physical) of taking notes. But you should take your preparation beyond that. Make sure you won’t be interrupted. Have your coffee, water bottle, snack, or other comforts handy. Need glasses? Get those, too.
  • Limit distractions. You know yourself. Will you be wandering off to a game or online shopping portal after thirty minutes? Make it hard on yourself. Put your phone in another room. Clear your desk. Use an app like FocusMe or at least turn off Skype and close your email program.
  • Minimize interruptions. Schedule your class and tell your assistant not to disturb you, or put a sign on the door. Go home if that’s less distracting — or to the office, if home is the more distracting of the two for you.
  • Increase channels. Research on human learning shows that multiple channels make new information stick better. Online learning provides listening and visual input, so add your own hands-on elements by taking notes, trying out suggestions, or drawing diagrams showing what you’ve learned.
  • Rehearse the information. At the end of a class, your mind may be stuffed full of new information and ideas. The next day, you might have forgotten a lot of it. In ten days — if you do nothing with that information — more than half of what you learned could be gone. Instead, go back over your notes the next day, and make a point of putting as many new ideas as possible into practice. Even telling people about what you’ve learned can help you remember it, so schedule a show and tell with colleagues in the week after your class.

8th & Walton’s online training gives you training in Retail Link, Supplier Development, and many more essential skills without the cost and inconvenience of travel. Take these steps to make the most of it!

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Supplier Glossary: GLN

glnGLN- Global Location number.

Walmart’s US is 0078742000008. Walmart Canada is 0681131000000. It’s a number that identifies the physical location of a company, and thus identifies the company itself.

Part of the GS1 standards system, the GLN is the numeric equivalent of a physical address, but it can also refer to a legal entity or function (such as carrier) that doesn’t have a physical address per se. It’s assigned by the GS1, so you can be sure that the number will be unique on a global level. GLNs can be used in RFID as well as being physically marked on goods or written on paper.

Michael Jones of Google once said that physical location is the most basic level of information organization, but 123 Main Street is not likely to be a unique address, and “On that shelf where people used to put their purses, back in Thelma’s office” definitely won’t work. The GLN is a highly accurate, consistent, unique location ID that works worldwide.

Your company will have a GLN. GLN extensions can include lots more data, including specific storage bins or scan and read points.This functionality is central to your ability to track your goods all the way through your supply chain.

Walmart suppliers are required to use EDI, and your GLN will be sent in the N1 ST segment, element 04, on all invoices. Are you ready to meet this and other requirements to become a Walmart supplier? Walmart Fit can help you find out!

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The Power of a Great Story

Andy Schuch talked with Steve Guiditta of Continental Mills on the most recent episode of 8th & Walton’s Saturday Morning Meeting, and they shared some great stories from their past.

The first story was how their Krusteaze product was started by a ladies’ bridge club in Seattle in 1932. They wanted an easier way to make pie crust. Women had been judged by their ability to make a light pie crust for many years, but these ladies (perhaps because they wanted to be able to relax and play bridge) wanted a better option.

Before Krusteaze brought pie crust ease, women had to cut lard, butter, or shortening into flour with a pastry cutter or a pair of knives, cutting over and over till the ingredients turned into pea-sized particles. They used a few drops of ice water to make the crust hold together and then rolled it out. Baking a pie was an ordeal… and a measure of a woman’s fitness for marriage.

Krusteaze changed all that.

A decade later, their “just add water” pancake mix made rustling up a hearty breakfast easy, too. It was easy for the housewife who could fix pancakes in a flash without needing fresh milk and eggs, but it was also a big help for the workers on the Alaskan oil pipeline. Fresh milk and eggs were hard to come by, but fresh home made taste was completely practical, thanks to Krusteaze.

Around that same time, the present owner’s father, a door to door dress salesman, got to know the ladies who had developed Krusteaze, and bought up their shares.

The parent company, Continental Mills, has more stories to tell. Some people are surprised that Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits only entered the restaurant’s history in the 1990s, as a variation on a garlic-cheese bread that was brought in to replace hush puppies, which were found to be too regional in nature. The biscuits were so popular that they came to be strongly associated with the restaurant.

As the recession lingered on, families might hesitate to make a weekly trip to Red Lobster with the family, but they were happy to have the chance to make the biscuits at home in between visits. Continental Mills made the mix for the restaurants as part of their food service division, boxed it up in home use quantities for Sam’s Club and Walmart.

Now, the mix is #6 in U.S. baking in general. Guiditta described the way this mix “rocketed to the top” as a “once in a lifetime experience.”

Does your company have good stories like these? They can help customers feel more engaged with your brand, so share them!

Watch the episode for the business implications of these great stories and much more, or enjoy our podcast:



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Walmart’s Made in the USA

USA_checkWalmart’s Made in the USA initiative isn’t just window dressing. Walmart is expecting to create a million new jobs by making it feasible and, over the long term, profitable to bring American manufacturing jobs back to America.

Reshoring has been happening over the past several years, but at this point it is definitely an idea whose time has come. Market research shows that Made in the USA is second only to price in appeal to Walmart shoppers.

With growing concerns about offshore manufacturing, including worker safety, product safety, and environmental effects, offshoring is less appealing to manufacturers, too. Rising labor costs and energy costs are also making it less of a bargain.

Where we used to hear, “You just have to have it made in China” as a flat statement of the reality of the situation, we’re now hearing more openness to the possibility of producing goods in the U.S.

Walmart is helping suppliers take the plunge. With a $250 billion commitment, they’re walking their talk. They’re buying U.S. made goods from both established suppliers and new ones, providing orders that allow companies to invest in increased automation, and rewarding suppliers who take the initiative and start bringing production home.

Walmart suppliers and would-be suppliers can visit Walmart’s Made in the USA website to find information about the progress of the initiative. The site shares news about events and efforts within Walmart and among suppliers.

You can also register to stay up to date. Registration is the first step toward proposing new US-sourced products. It’s also part of Walmart’s “matchmaking” efforts — a way to join a network of companies that are prepared to partner to make US-made goods a practical option. You do not have to be a current supplier to register.

More about Made in the USA:

If you’re making supply chain changes, you’ll also benefit from Navigating Supply Chain Responsibility.

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3 Keys to Selling to Women with YouTube

phanWhen you think of social media marketing, don’t overlook YouTube. Especially if your ideal customer is a woman, she is probably on YouTube — and chances are good that she is willing to learn more about your products.

How many women are watching YouTube?

  • 34.7 million women ages 18-54 — 55% of all women in that age range
  • 60% of all U.S. women 18-24 are there

YouTube watchers are a little different from the average woman — they’re more likely to be into electronics, for example, and more likely to be influential among their friends and family when it comes to computers.

However, YouTube is also reaching women shopping for traditional women-focused products. Here’s a selection of insights from Google, the owner of YouTube:

  • 68% of millennial moms buy food they see in food videos, one of the most popular categories on YouTube.
  • Millennials who are not moms are less likely to think of themselves as good cooks and less likely to cook on a regular basis. However, 75% of them expressed interest in seeing cooking videos from food brands.
  • Health, beauty, and parenting tips are also huge categories on YouTube (almost as popular as funny cat videos). Creative videos in these categories see millions of views.

What does it take to reach women on YouTube?

  • Useful information. While humor, music, and public humiliation make for famously popular videos, how-to and customer reviews are the most popular categories over the long run.
  • Quality and quantity. YouTube experts say that authenticity is key, but consumers expect some polish from major brands. Producing video regularly is another essential — viewers will subscribe, comment, and share.
  • Connection. Can you come across like your viewer’s sister, mom, or aunt giving some great advice? This is one of the things that viewers come back for. Connect with your website, too, and with promotions. You don’t really just want an audience… you want your viewers to take action. Give them actions to take.
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8th & Walton Business Support

3d-alarm-red-button_21-77309457Whether you’re in the emotionally demanding stage of getting on the shelf, struggling to keep up during your early years, or working hard to grow your business with Walmart, you could probably use a little support sometimes.

8th & Walton provides that business support for suppliers large and small. Our experts don’t require training, and you can bring them in for short engagements when you need some extra help or keep them on for the long haul.

8th & Walton Business Support Services:

  • Outsource The Basics Retail Link experts can pull your reports, provide analysis, and keep everything on an even keel while you focus on the things you do best.
  • .com Services Ready to add e-commerce? We can help you sell your products through the online stores of retailers like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Amazon, Lowe’s and many more.
  • Show You / Grow You Ready for the next step but not sure what that next step should be? Our experts will identify areas of opportunity and help you develop and implement plans for continued success.
  • Meeting Prep & Support Whether you need slides for a sales meeting or prep for your next line review, 8th & Walton can share expertise and inside knowledge with you and help you move toward success.

Contact us today to discuss your needs and let us put together a custom-tailored package of services for you.

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Targeting Customers by Ethnic Demographic

audienceRetail Link allows suppliers to see some demographic information, especially in the Store of the Community reports. We can see that a store in Sherwood is likely to have more African-American customers than a store in Rogers and that a Siloam Springs store has more Hispanic shoppers than Morrilton.

We’ve looked before at the effective use of consumer market research. But in an increasingly multicultural society, ethnic market targeting raises some questions.

  • First, are you targeting or just stereotyping? Adding Spanish language information to your packaging for Hispanic customers is a practical choice. Adding a picture of a sombrero may simply offend. Increasing fish choices during Lent because Hispanic customers are more likely to be Catholic makes sense — but 55% of U.S. Hispanics are Catholic, not 100%.
  • Who are you ignoring? Dark-skinned women often express frustration at the choice of foundation colors available to them, and a beauty products supplier should certainly provide dark shades in a community known to have a large African-American population. However, light-skinned African-American women shouldn’t be neglected… nor should the smaller proportions of the population.
  • Does your product require ethnic targeting? A Mindshare study found that ethnic targeting is more appropriate for some products than others — and that it varies by community. Asian consumers are more likely to choose foods that are targeted to Asians, but clothing doesn’t elicit this response. Hispanic consumers are more likely to respond to clothing targeted toward their ethnic group.

Understanding your customer can include understanding their cultural heritage, but there can be problems with some traditional approaches to ethnic market targeting.

All these potential errors can be avoided with one step: use your Retail Link data. Watch out for bias, check market research data against your own data, and test changes with the population you’re targeting. Then let the numbers be your guide.

Wanting to reach out to a specific population? 8th & Walton’s Store of the Community Analysis class will bring you greater insight.

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