Wal-Mart plans $50 billion "buy American" push

Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:23pm EST
 
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By Jessica Wohl

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N will buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next decade in areas like sporting goods and high-end appliances in what the world's largest retailer called a bid to help boost the U.S. economy.

Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States, also said on Tuesday it plans to hire 100,000 newly discharged veterans over the next five years, at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate is at 7.8 percent.

Wal-Mart said the plan to buy more U.S.-made goods is an effort to create U.S. jobs and spur economic growth. Critics countered that the company and other retailers could help the economy by paying better wages and offering workers more regular hours.

The moves come as the U.S. economy continues to grow slowly 3-1/2 years after the end of a severe recession. An average of $5 billion a year in spending is a drop in the bucket for the $15 trillion U.S. economy, and the question is how many other retailers could do the same.

Terry Lundgren, chief executive of Macy's Inc M.N and until this month the chairman of the National Retail Federation, told Reuters that Wal-Mart's plans to buy American were good but that cost would still be an issue.

"We would all love to do that, the customer will not pay more," Lundgren told Reuters on the sidelines of an NRF event where Wal-Mart presented its plans.

The moves received a cool reception from critics who claimed Wal-Mart does not pay its workers enough and slammed the retailer for selling too many goods made in lower-cost countries like China. The company is also under pressure over its sourcing practices, particularly after a deadly fire at a Bangladesh factory that made Wal-Mart clothes.

Wal-Mart's U.S. unit says about two-thirds of the goods it buys for its stores are made, sourced from or grown in the United States, citing data from its suppliers. It did not give a dollar amount for how much it pays for those goods, or what percentage the increased domestic sourcing would bring.   Continued...

 
Tasha heads to checkout at a Walmart Store in Chicago, November 23, 2012. REUTERS/John Gress