Exclusive: Wal-Mart presses suppliers to share benefits of cheaper yuan

Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:10pm EDT
 
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By Nathan Layne and Nandita Bose

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) is seeking price cuts from suppliers that produce goods in China, saying the retailer should share in the savings generated by China's devaluation of the yuan, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Wal-Mart managers in recent weeks have contacted more than 10,000 suppliers in various countries, all of which have manufacturing facilities in China, seeking cost cuts of 2 percent to 6 percent on mainly general merchandise including home furnishings, apparel, health and beauty products, appliances, electronics and toys, according to a consultant who advised Wal-Mart on the move and spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the retailer.

The company is telling suppliers that they should pass on the savings arising from the yuan devaluation so Wal-Mart can achieve EDLC, or "everyday low cost," its term for the tight cost controls needed to keep prices low for consumers, according to executives at two vendors of durable goods, who also requested anonymity. Both were asked for cuts in the lower half of the 2 percent to 6 percent range. Both said they planned to negotiate a reduction in the proposed cuts.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Deisha Barnett declined to comment on whether the company was seeking price cuts in China-made goods. With almost $500 billion in annual sales and a globally diversified supply chain, Wal-Mart holds tremendous sway over its vendors, which could risk their business with the retailer by pushing back too hard on its requests to lower costs

The move by the world's largest retailer follows efforts by other retailers to benefit from a cheaper yuan. A senior Toys R Us official told Reuters last month that the company was "engaging" with suppliers about improving terms. Home Depot Inc (HD.N: Quote) Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome said they had identified potential cost savings from the currency's decline and would pursue them.

Last month, China devalued its tightly controlled currency in a bid to boost growth and help flagging exports. The nearly 2 percent cut on Aug. 11 was the most significant downward adjustment to the yuan since 1994. The currency is down 2.9 percent versus the dollar so far this year, making exports from the country less expensive when purchased with dollars, the currency most often used in supplier contracts.

Wal-Mart's latest overture to suppliers comes as it seeks to push through broader changes designed to lower its costs through changes to vendor agreements. In June, Wal-Mart began asking all suppliers to pay fees to store inventory in Wal-Mart warehouses and in some cases has sought to extend the time Wal-Mart takes to pay its vendors.

Wal-Mart has been struggling to shore up its profit margins, which have been weighed down by a $1 billion investment announced earlier this year to increase wages for half a million store-level workers and other cost pressures. The company's stock is down 26 percent so far this year.   Continued...

 
Souvenir t-shirts are seen for sale at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas, June 4, 2015.  Wal-Mart will hold its annual meeting June 5, 2015.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking