January 18, 2012, 4:12 PM

Wal-Mart looks for the next great product

The retailer hosts an “American Idol”-like contest to find items it will sell online.

Lead Photo

The contest's entry page.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s research lab @WalMartLabs today launched Get on the Shelf, an “American Idol”-like competition  that enables consumers to submit YouTube videos of their inventions or designs that they hope to sell on Walmart.com, as well as on the shelves of the retailer’s bricks-and-mortar stores.

As long as the invention fits within one of the categories Wal-Mart currently sells, which range from health and beauty to electronics and apparel, it is eligible for the contest, the retailer says.

“When you think about the millions of products out there, there are some things that Wal-Mart should be thinking about, but it isn’t,” says Chris Bolte, @WalMartLabs vice president. “This is a way for us to improve the product selection process.” The contest also is a way for Wal-Mart to give consumers a voice in what the retailer carries, he adds.

Contestants can submit videos at GetOnTheShelf.com until Feb. 22. The first round of voting, which will determine 10 finalists, will run from March 7 to April 4. A second voting round will be held from April 11 to April 24. The top three vote-getters will have the chance to sell their products on Walmart.com.

The participant that receives the most votes will have his product featured on Walmart.com’s home page, and on the shelves of select stores nationwide.

Wal-Mart will negotiate with the winners to help them meet the retailer’s requirements. Requirements will vary depending on what type of products win. “Whatever type of product it is that wins will have different requirements that will need to scale,” Bolte says. “Everything will be on a case-by-case basis whether it is distribution assistance, production scale help or whatever else they might need.” If the grand prize winner doesn’t agree to the terms, he will receive $12,500. If the two runners-up don’t agree to terms they will each receive $10,000.

Wal-Mart will not require an exclusivity clause in the agreement, Bolte says, which means the inventor may be able to sell the product on sites other than Walmart.com.

Get on the Shelf is an experiment, Bolte says, which is why it is hosted on its own site, GetOnTheShelf.com. However, based on the results, consumers may see an iteration of the contest appear on Walmart.com in the near future, he says.



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