US retail giant Walmart is holding its first annual open call for US-manufactured products in an entirely virtual format as it looks to grow its base of locally-manufactured goods.

The one-on-one meeting opportunities with Walmart merchants are available in general merchandise categories, including apparel, home and sporting goods, toys, stationery, hardware, automotive and seasonal items.

To date, more than 3,000 businesses from 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have applied for the opportunity to pitch their US-manufactured products, and more than 10,000 merchant meetings have been requested. 

“Offering Open Call in a completely virtual format gives us an unprecedented opportunity to reach and meet with more businesses that are manufacturing quality products our customers are interested in,” says Laura Phillips, Walmart senior vice president for global sourcing and US manufacturing. “This year’s Open Call is shaping up to be a great event for businesses of all kinds. By eliminating physical meeting spaces, we’re able to increase the number of business breakout sessions as part of the event program and give more businesses the opportunity to participate, regardless of location. Additionally, we are able to schedule even more virtual one-on-one meetings with Walmart merchants.”

As in previous years, Open Call participants could secure deals to reach customers through Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs, and A big difference this year is the addition of Walmart Marketplace in a bigger and better way, the retailer says. As more customers choose to shop online, Walmart has strengthened its position through and Marketplace, with the latter outpacing the company’s overall US e-commerce business.

The event, scheduled for 1 October, kicks off Walmart’s celebration of US Manufacturing Month and will include similar programming to previous years. In addition to one-on-one pitch meetings with company buyers, participants will have an opportunity to hear directly from Walmart executives and learn from its leaders during smaller breakout sessions designed to inform, empower and encourage supplier-hopefuls. This year, breakout sessions will include a range of relevant topics from accessing financial capital to creating great online product content and managing risk.

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In January 2013, Walmart announced its commitment to help boost job creation and US manufacturing through buying an additional US$250bn in products supporting American jobs by 2023. Walmart’s Open Call is one way the company continues to invest in this commitment.