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Only Four Local Suppliers Contacted By Wal-Mart Buyers

Two-Week Response Period Following Trade Fair Ended Last Week


June 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Only four of the 40 companies that attended Wal-Mart’s Puerto Rico Trade Fair in Arkansas on May 29 have begun negotiating to export their products to the megaretailer’s stores.

The group, led by the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, traveled to Wal-Mart’s Bentonville headquarters over two weeks ago to present their products to company buyers. Local exporters interviewed by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS said that of the approximately 200 buyers who Wal-Mart had indicated would attend, fewer than 15 met informally with a few companies during the one-day event. Exporters left behind their product portfolios with the understanding that they would hear from Wal-Mart buyers within two weeks.

As of last week, however, the only new suppliers contacted by Wal-Mart were Moca candy manufacturer Dulzura Borincana, cleaning products manufacturer Dr. Mecanico, and seasoning manufacturer Adobo Bohio. Juice manufacturer Campofresco, already a Sam’s supplier, is negotiating a new order to supply Wal-Mart Super Centers in Florida.

"I received an e-mail [last week] in answer to my inquiry about the status of my company as a supplier to Wal-Mart," said Empanadillas Oscar General Manager Sandra Barbeito. "In it, I was told that the buyer was still evaluating my product. I am hopeful about being chosen as one of the suppliers."

Javier Denis, president of seasoning manufacturer Doña Yiya, is disappointed but remains hopeful. "Our trip to Wal-Mart headquarters certainly didn’t turn out as expected. All of the companies that traveled to Bentonville made an enormous effort, which wasn’t adequately returned given that only a few Wal-Mart buyers met with a couple of the suppliers," he said. "I never got to meet with buyers for my product, so I don’t know what my chances are of becoming a national supplier. So far, my product is available in the two local Wal-Mart Super Centers, and I look forward to entering local Sam’s Club stores soon."

Denis said he had spoken informally with a few members of the group from Puerto Rico and none had received a response from Wal-Mart. "One good thing that has come out of it is that some of us are starting to do business with each other. So I don’t consider it a total loss," he said.

Wal-Mart’s Gonzalez Denton responds

Concerned about the disappointment expressed by local exporters with the lack of buyers at the trade fair, Wal-Mart Corporate Affairs Director Federico Gonzalez Denton insisted that at least one representative from either Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club had visited every company. Most of the job titles he quoted to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS belonged to Wal-Mart and Sam’s buyers in various areas. He also said various divisional vice presidents and managers were in attendance, though it seems mostly to make protocol visits.

Gonzalez Denton said that even if only one local exporter is added to the megaretailer’s list of suppliers, the efforts to bring about the first Puerto Rico Trade Fair will have been worth it.

"The success of this trade fair won’t be seen overnight," said Gonzalez Denton. "We will continue putting on this kind of event with new exporters and giving those that didn’t make it this time a chance to improve their product and make another presentation. We want to make the Puerto Rico Food & Product Show a regular event."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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