Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Another year, another questionable infographic from the world's largest retailer!

Every year, Walmart hosts a conference where it invites U.S.-based manufacturers – eager to get their goods on the company’s shelves – to present their sales pitches to the Behemoth of Bentonville.

Every year, Walmart uses the opportunity to display itself as a champion of American manufacturing via a snazzy PR campaign, which will highlight:

  • The huge pile of money the company intends to spend on American-made products;
  • The share of American-made products in its total volume of sales;
  • And the grants it will award for research and development in domestic textile manufacturing.

So every year, we do our small part to throw some shade on Walmart’s claims, which – when it comes to American manufacturing – are never as straightforward as they claim. You'll find Walmart's self-congratulatory infographic on the left -- and a version that provides much-needed context on the right:

For instance: When Walmart claims that its American-made goods initiative will create 1 million new American jobs, it fails to mention that Chinese-made goods entering the United States through Walmart totaled at least $49.1 billion in 2013 alone.

It also doesn’t mention that the combined effect of imports from and exports to China through Walmart accounted for about 15 percent of the growth of the overall American goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

Or that the Walmart-based Chinese trade deficit eliminated 400,000 American jobs during that time.

If these huge figures seem crazy to you – like we’re talking about the GDP of a small country and not a chain of monolithic retail outlets – that’s completely understandable. But hey, these are the numbers you deal with when you’re in Walmart-land. The House that Sam Built has astronomic sales totals every year, so when it announces its plans to spend billions of dollars over a decade on American-made goods, remember that Walmart was planning on spending that money anyway.

It certainly didn’t decide to do so out of a sense of patriotism, and it still imports far more than it procures domestically.

Don’t get fooled by any gauzy Walmart infographics you find floating around out there. Click here for our own Walmart fact sheet.