The announcement follows a similar commitment from 2013, when it said it would invest $250 billion in products made (or grown or assembled) domestically. That effort later came under scrutiny after consumer advocacy groups reported what they called misleading labels on Walmart.com to the Federal Trade Commission.
“U.S. manufacturing really matters,” John Furner, chief executive of Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “More businesses are choosing to establish their manufacturing operations in the United States, and the result is more jobs for Americans — a lot more jobs.”
Furner announced the investment Wednesday during a visit to a Techtronic Industries plant in Anderson, S.C., where the company manufacturers products for brands such as Hoover, Oreck and Dirt Devil that are sold in Walmart stores.
Walmart, which has nearly 4,800 stores nationwide, said its efforts could help reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by sourcing products closer to its customers. The retail giant, which employs 1.5 million U.S. workers and last year had $524 billion in sales, is a closely watched bellwether. It has a network of thousands of suppliers, which means its purchasing decisions often reverberate throughout the industry.
The initiative follows federal efforts to revive U.S. manufacturing. President Biden has vowed to prioritize domestic production and in January ordered government agencies to buy more American-made goods.
“These investments will help create well-paid, union jobs, and build our economy back better so that everybody has a fair shot at the middle class,” the White House said in announcing the executive order.
The retailer’s Made in America efforts have come under fire in recent years. Truth in Advertising, a consumer advocacy nonprofit group, has repeatedly taken issue with Walmart’s labeling of U.S.-made goods as deceptive and misleading. In 2015, the group said it had found more than 100 instances of misleading labels on the company’s website, on products including teeth-whitening strips and liquid eyeliner, which it reported to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency briefly investigated the matter but closed its inquiry after it concluded Walmart had taken sufficient steps to prevent consumer deception.
Earlier this year, Truth in Advertising filed another complaint with the FTC, saying vacuum cleaners, bath towels and other products on the retailer’s site continue to be labeled as “Made in the USA when they contain imported components.” It called on the agency to “put an end to Walmart’s deceptive made in the USA claims once and for all.”
In a statement, Walmart said it appreciates the group’s efforts and shares its interests.
“We take our commitment to U.S. manufacturing seriously,” the retailer said. “We have seen some wonderful success stories based on our initiative and hope to contribute to further expansion of U.S. manufacturing and job growth.”