U.S. Manufacturing

Constructing the Future of U.S. Manufacturing

With K’NEX, Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys, children can build from their imaginations and open their minds to the worlds of science and engineering. As my company created these products for kids, many years ago our minds were opened to another complex subject: the math behind producing them in the United States.

Since 1992, our subsidiary The Rodon Group has helped K’NEX Brands make this a reality, manufacturing more than 32 billion bricks, rods and connectors at our plastic injection molding facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. We sell many of these toys at Walmart. So when the company announced its $250 billion U.S. manufacturing commitment, we were thrilled – because we were aligned with a retailer that’s acting on a cause we’re passionate about.

Last August, we attended Walmart’s first U.S. Manufacturing Summit, meeting with state representatives and connecting with like-minded businesses on the challenges of making more products domestically. Now that it’s time again this year, I’m excited that we’ll not only be attending, but playing an even bigger role.

This Thursday, I’ll be speaking on stage with Jim Stephen, CEO of Weber, at the second annual U.S. Manufacturing Summit, and I’m eager to share K’NEX’s story as well as some practical advice for other companies. While the case for manufacturing in America has been presented by many, some businesses remain skeptical that there are advantages. And we know firsthand the journey isn’t always easy. For example, although we quickly saw the major upside of bringing products to our customers faster, we discovered there were several minor supply chain details we weren’t up to speed on, like the proper thickness of a box, the ideal inks for packaging, and others that we had to replicate in a cost-efficient way.

Offstage, I’m excited about the connections we’ll all make. At The Rodon Group, we not only make toys – we also make about 5 billion parts a year for industries from home construction to food and beverage. So we’ll be sharing those details with companies who are interested, and we’ll also be seeking our own partners, too: We still import our toy motors, and if we can find a company at the summit that can make those domestically, we’ll reach 100% U.S. production on virtually every K’NEX item.

Given that I’ve said last year’s summit was like LinkedIn for U.S. manufacturing, I’m confident that those connections will be made for not only K’NEX, but hundreds of other companies assembling their dreams right here in America.

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Business

When it Comes to Holiday Cheer, Ugly Sweaters Aren’t Wearing Out

A few years back, it was easy to dismiss ugly holiday sweaters as a fad. But this trend has not only taken root – it's stronger and tackier than ever.

The reason is simple: People are looking for happiness and joy during the holidays, and these sweaters make people smile. They spark conversation at parties. They’re fun – and we all need more fun in our lives.

Each year, we’ve seen this new December staple get uglier and more unexpected. And, while Walmart has been front and center in providing affordable, fun options for customers to purposefully “ugly” up their holiday wardrobes, we’ve gone all out this year.

We not only increased the volume of ugly sweaters in our stores, we added several with fun features. Some have working Christmas lights. Some of our sweaters – including a reindeer print – even sing to you. And since November, the women’s elf sweater dress we created has been flying off the shelves as fast as we’ve been able to stock it.

We’ve also ventured beyond the traditional adult sweater. We have a line of ugly sweater-themed T-shirts, with everything from Christmas trees and snowflakes, to gingerbread zombies and Star Wars characters, for men, women and children. We’re even offering ugly holiday sweaters for dogs.

I have to tell you, as a buyer and as a part of the team responsible for creating these sweaters, it was an absolute blast bringing some of these wacky ideas to life. The whole process of adding functioning lights into clothing, battery packs for sound and more – every detail mattered. We knew people would be talking about those items, but we also had to make sure it was going to be easy to remove and reinstall those components before and after the sweaters go through the washing machine. They’re fun but still functional.

We looked at all the details, like, is Santa’s nose pointing the right direction? Is it ugly in the right way? You want to turn heads, but you also want to be sure you're creating options that a teacher feels good about wearing in front of a class, for example.

So we’re proud of what we’ve created and thrilled by the positive response from customers. We’ve even heard about people doing ugly holiday sweater fashion shows. Supporting this tacky tradition is one way we’re helping make the holidays affordable, while also putting a smile on customers’ faces. And it makes our jobs a whole lot of fun.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Among the Pumpkins, This Farm Grows Local Communities

Twenty years ago, Frey Farms started adding pumpkins to the local produce they sold at nearby Walmart stores in Wayne County, Illinois. Since then, Sarah Frey and her four brothers have expanded their harvest acres to 11 farms in seven additional states, allowing them to employ more than 500 American workers seasonally.

We’re proud to celebrate two decades of working with the largest grower and shipper of pumpkins in the nation. In just 10 years, Frey Farms sold enough Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins to wrap around the globe seven times!

Not only has their success helped grow the local and state economies where their farms operate, it has allowed us to offer healthier and affordable locally sourced food options at even more locations across the country.

See how this family owned and operated business is supporting American jobs, and why we’re proud to work with them as part of our commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S.

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Business

The Pie Chart: Sweet Stats on America’s Favorite Flavors

For many, dessert is the best part of the meal. It’s that special treat that can brighten up any day.

During the holiday season, sweets get a whole new spotlight. Pies in particular can be found on many families’ tables from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way until year’s end.

Last year, pies at Walmart gained new celebrity appeal with the release of Patti LaBelle’s signature sweet potato recipe. Thanks to a viral video – and pleased palates across America – they have been a hit ever since.

All of this talk about pies got our minds (and stomachs) wondering. With seemingly unlimited pie flavors, we wanted to know which one reigns supreme with our customers’ taste buds. We took a look at our last year of sales, and put together a pie chart (see what we did there) to show the results.

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Opportunity

When a Second Chance at Education Changes Your Life

Sometimes opportunity flashes at the most unexpected times. Like earlier this year, when I happened to look over my husband’s shoulder and noticed an advertisement that has already changed the course of my life.

My husband, an assistant manager at the Walmart supercenter in Palakta, FL, was searching for advancement opportunities on WalmartOne.com – the company intranet. What jumped out at me was the fact that eligible family members of Walmart associates could earn their high school equivalency free of charge via GEDWorks or the Career Online High School program. A bad situation as a teenager kept me from finishing high school – and bills and the decision to start a family made it difficult to ever hop back in and get it done.

But with this, someone was willing to pay my way. I was a little nervous about being lost or overwhelmed at first, but a counselor was always available to answer my questions from the second I enrolled in the program. A short while later, I’d passed my tests and had my high school equivalency. The feeling of pride is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’m already focused on going to school to become an obstetrics nurse.

I’ve seen the doors Walmart has opened for my husband in his career. The fact that the company is willing to invest in the education of eligible family members like myself, through its Lifelong Learning program, is a blessing.

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