Estimates say Chinese suppliers make up 70-80% of Walmart’s merchandise

Estimates say Chinese suppliers make up 70-80% of Walmart’s merchandise

As retail giant Walmart prepares for its annual US Manufacturing Summit today (28 June) – which includes an open call for US-made products – the company has been accused of misleading consumers over its 'Made in USA' efforts.

Advertising watchdog Truth in Advertising (TINA) has followed up an investigation it carried out last year, and says Walmart's website "is still replete with false and deceptive US-origin claims," a year after the retailer promised to clean up its act.

The group last year reported Walmart to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after finding 'Made in the USA' labelled products on its website, despite the packaging indicating they were made in China.

Walmart initially blamed the misrepresentations as "coding errors" and then accused suppliers of providing outdated information. It also redesigned its 'Made in USA' logos to indicate how much of a product was made domestically and how much was manufactured overseas. 

But TINA says its latest investigation has found more than 100 products on the Walmart website, ranging from markers to baseball caps, listed as US-made even though they are wholly manufactured in places such as Korea and China or Made in the US with imported parts – a composition that, according to the FTC standard, cannot be advertised with an unqualified 'Made in the USA' claim.

Other items have conflicting US-origin information on the same web-page, the group says.

Separately, the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) has picked holes in the company's public commitment to buy $250bn worth of American-made products by 2023, pointing out that Walmart remains the nation's largest importer of foreign-made consumer goods.

"When you look at the numbers, this pledge isn't even a drop in Walmart's bucket," says AAM president Scott Paul.

"Walmart is the country's top retail importer. Since its 2013 pledge, the company's imports have continued to increase, suggesting that while the retailer might technically be buying a few more American-made products, Walmart is also just buying more products."

"In this case, volume isn't a commitment, it is a business decision — and I encourage Walmart to dramatically alter its import product mix rather than padding its goal total by counting perishable groceries, which can't really be outsourced."

The AAM claims Walmart imported 795,900 shipping containers worth of products in 2015 – more than any other retailer.

It also points out that Walmart's financial records show it collected $3.9 trillion in net sales between 2005 and 2014. In 2013, the company committed to purchasing $250 billion in American-made goods by 2023 – just 6% of its net sales over the past decade (5% in 2014).

"If Walmart continues to grow at the same rate, in 2023 the company will spend just 3.2% on American-made goods," the group says.