The latest initiative by Walmart to support women-owned businesses involves calling out their products on its shelves. Starting this fall, women-owned businesses can qualify for a special logo to be placed on their products through Women’s Enterprise National Council and WEConnect International. Once a women-owned business is certified by one of these organizations, meaning it is 51 percent owned, operated and controlled by a woman or group of women, the product can feature the new logo.
Companies like Sexy & Smart, a lingerie brand, and Maggie’s Salsa already plan to use the logo, and with the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. at more than 8.6 million, Walmart is betting that number will increase. According to Growing Under the Radar, American Express’s 2013 update of its annual study of women-owned businesses, from 1997 to 2013 the number of women-owned companies increased by 59 percent, while revenues grew by 63 percent.
“People are looking for reasons to feel good about the company they’re buying from,” Pamela Prince-Eason, CEO of Women’s Business Enterprise National Council told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Although products made by women-owned businesses are not guaranteed to be better quality or produced a certain way, like non-GMO or organic, Walmart is banking on research that shows that women, who make 80 percent of purchasing decisions, are more apt to buy products produced by other women. In fact, Prince-Eason wrote, “Ninety percent of Walmart’s women customers in the U.S. said they’d go out of their way to buy merchandise made by women.”
Walmart’s big push to support women-owned businesses started in September 2011, when the retail giant announced their Global Women’s Economic Empowerment program, promising to buy $20 billion of products from U.S. female-owned businesses during the next five years and double sourcing from women-owned businesses around the world. In addition, Walmart promised to:
- Implement a women’s empowerment program to train 60,000 women in 150 factories and processing facilities.
- Train 500,000 women in the agriculture value chain in emerging markets.
- Empower 200,000 women through job training, education, career counseling and mentoring in the U.S.
- Train 200,000 women for their first jobs in retail in emerging markets through partnerships with NGOs, public schools, multilateral institutions and universities.
Walmart reports meeting many milestones, including donating $2 million in grants from the Walmart Foundation to the State Department and Vital Voices to provide training to women entrepreneurs, providing $25,000 to launch the Women at Work program, and, in June 2013, Sam’s Club committed to hosting Grow Your Business Boot Camp events in a minimum of 25 locations across the country.
Walmart also announced their Women in Factories program in April 2012 which will be rolled out to 150 factories in India, Bangladesh, China and Central America over five years, during which Walmart will provide critical life skills training, including communication, nutrition, hygiene, gender sensitivity and health to more than 60,000 women working in factories globally. In 2013, Walmart also launched Empowering Women Together, dedicating space on its website to products by women-owned businesses around the world.
Why does Walmart throw its weight behind women and women-owned businesses? On its website, Walmart says,
“Walmart believes empowering women economically will make us a more successful retailer. The majority of our 200 million customers are women, and women control $20 trillion of annual consumer spending globally. Our women’s empowerment initiative will help us better serve and understand our customers around the world. In addition, with 90 million women estimated to join the global workforce by 2013, we want to help educate, source from, and open new markets for those women because we know it boosts wages and economic growth.”
Will consumers buy products simply because they are made by women-owned businesses? Walmart’s numbers make a strong argument that they will, but we will find out come September when the logo hits the shelves.