Wal-Mart said that it plans to focus on buying more in areas such as sporting goods, fashion basics, storage products, games and paper products. The commitment comes as economics are changing for making goods overseas. Labor costs are rising in Asia, while oil and transportation costs are high and increasingly uncertain.
Simon, Wal-Mart's CEO, said that a few of the company's manufacturers have told Wal-Mart that they have defined the "tipping points" at which manufacturing abroad will no longer make sense for them. Simon cited one supplier called 1888 Mills, which made most of its towels overseas, but had an underutilized factory in Griffin, Georgia.
Wal-Mart said it worked with the supplier on a couple of innovations and now the U.S. factory is hiring again. The towels made in the U.S. will be in 600 of its stores this spring, and another 600 stores in by the fall. The towels' label will say "Made Here."
The final piece of Wal-Mart's plan is to help part-time Wal-Mart workers transition into full-time employment if they so desire. Simon said that about 75 percent of its store management start as hourly associates, and their average pay is $50,000 to $170,000 a year.
"There are some fundamental misunderstandings out there about retail jobs, and we need to do better at explaining the opportunities we offer," he said.