A confident disclaimer from ThomasNet VP regarding Walmart deal? by Jon Hansen

Posted on July 22, 2015


“We are not here to pass judgement – the suppliers can speak for themselves . . . it is up to them to decide” – Tom Greco, VP of Publishing Operations at ThomasNet.Com

It is rare that one receives the answer to a question in such a direct and concise manner, so as to remove any doubt in terms of discerning from where the other party is coming.

This is one of the many aspects of my discussion with ThomasNet.com VP Tom Greco that stood out when I talked with him about his company’s recent deal with Walmart. The conversation took place as a result of the concerns I had raised in my July 9th, 2015 post, in which I pointed to the fact that the majority of suppliers that deal with Walmart, likely come to regret it. It is also perhaps the reason why Walmart’s vendors were encountering problems in finding U.S. sources of supply, possibly leading them to seek the relationship with ThomasNet in the first place.

Like Tesco, who it should be noted was the subject of a July 20th LinkedIn article by Gerard Chick that zeroed on their reported mistreatment of suppliers, Walmart’s track record is equally unenviable when it comes to their relationship with their supply base.

However, and against the backdrop of the launch of the new ThomasNet.com Corporate Edition – the details of which I will cover in a future post – Greco made it clear that the company’s vast supply base that has been cultivated over the past 100 years, can stand on their own two feet. As a result stressed the VP, the company’s primary focus is on “bringing as many opportunities to our supplier network” as is possible.

But at what price opportunity?

While I understand Greco’s position, I am not sure that a disclaimer will prove sufficient if and when Walmart reverts to its old ways of dealing with suppliers after the honeymoon period is over. Let’s face it, ThomasNet is a rarity in the realm of supplier networks. Although concerns regarding the cost to suppliers in terms of listing on ThomasNet have been raised in some circles, suggestions that their suppliers are getting stiffed by high fees, or an inability to justify the return on their investment that is all to common with other supplier networks such as Ariba’s, is not as frequent.

Of course, the origins of the ThomasNet.com supplier network is quite different in that it goes back to the company’s founding in 1898. Back then (and up until 2006, when the switch was made to the present day online format), it was known as the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, or “Thomas Registry.”

So while some may question the ThomasNet.com pricing model, there are few, if any, who have questioned the fact that “ThomasNet is a trusted resource for buyers looking for manufacturers and suppliers.” That trust however was not gained at the expense of its suppliers. This brings us back to my original concern regarding the Walmart deal.

While I am certain that not every single relationship that was brokered through ThomasNet has had a happy ending, you do not endure for more than century without having considerably more successes than failures. In this context, providing Walmart with access to a supply base of such pedigree could come back to haunt the company, especially if things go south. If they do, I doubt that ThomasNet suppliers will find comfort in the company’s disclaimer.

The only question I have is what took Walmart so long to discover ThomasNet and, why now? Perhaps it is in the answer to these questions that we will ultimately come to understand what the future is likely to hold for all concerned.

In the meantime, and as demonstrated by the following Twitter exchange with Procurement Ombudsman, not everyone agrees with my assessment of the deal;

ThomasNet Walmart Twitter Exchange

So what do you think? Is the deal with Walmart good or bad for ThomasNet.com suppliers?