The CEOs of retail giant Walmart, online marketplace Etsy, and other retailers met at the White House on Monday to brief President Biden on supply chain challenges. The roundtable included the director of the National Economic Council and the director of the Office of Public Engagement.
According to the White House press release, the companies discussed their outlook for the holiday shopping season and the steps they’ve taken to meet consumer demands and overcome supply chain bottlenecks.
In addition to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, attendees at the meeting included the CEOs of Best Buy, CVS Health, Food Lion, Kroger, Mattel, Qurate Retail Group, Samsung, and Todos Supermarket.
The Walmart CEO told the President the company was going to have a “really good” holiday season as it shared during its recent earnings release, when it also reported that its inventory levels were up more than 10 percent. “So, while we’re all concerned about the supply chain, we have more inventory than we did a year ago and have the inventory that we need to be able to support the business,” McMillon said.
He also said port and transit delays were improving, noting that about two thirds of what the company sells in the US is made or grown domestically. “That other third has a meaningful portion coming from Canada and Mexico, which is helpful. For the part that comes outside of North America, the port issue has been a big issue. But we’ve really seen a lot of improvement.”
Specifically, Walmart has seen an increase in flow-through of about 26 percent nationally over the past 4 weeks in terms of getting containers through ports, and a 51 percent improvement in Southern California ports.
McMillon said Walmart was in a good in-stock position and expects it to be strong. “There are a few items, as there are every year with the hottest toys or things in electronics, that we wish we had more of. But generally speaking, we’re in good shape.”
Etsy’s CEO shared his thoughts ahead of the meeting on the Etsy blog, writing, “I plan to use this time to remind the administration that it’s critical to always consider actions that promote an environment where small businesses are able to operate and thrive.”
Rodney McMullen, head of the country’s largest grocery chainstore Kroger, said it was partnering with suppliers to plan for increased demand and to increase its safety stock on more than 70 of its most critical categories, “leveraging our data insights to identify complementary/substitute items to fill customers’ needs where suppliers can’t meet demands, and diversifying ports of entry we schedule through.”
In contrast, the head of the 4-store Todos Supermarket company Carlos Castro said that, “Although independents are resilient and our customers can rely on us during the holidays, independent grocers unfortunately continue to face competitive disadvantages when sourcing products in short supply.” Castro is a board member of the National Grocers Association which represents over 21,000 independent grocers across the country, according to today’s coverage of the meeting in Abasto.