February 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

In search of the next hot item, Wal-Mart whips up a competition via YouTube

Wal-Mart's own think tank, @WalMartLabs, is inviting consumers to compete with new product ideas submitted on YouTube videos. Winners will get a change to sell their products on Walmart.com.

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Even Wal-Mart can't think of everything. So @WalMartLabs, the retailer's own think tank, is reaching for ideas from consumers by inviting them to compete by posting YouTube videos showing off their product ideas.

The "Get on the Shelf" competition, launched last month, lets consumers 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 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, vice president @WalMartLabs, a Silicon Valley research unit Wal-Mart Stores Inc. created last year. "This is a way for us to improve the product selection process." The contest also gives consumers a voice in what Wal-Mart 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 run from April 11 to April 24. The top three vote-getters will have the chance to sell their products on Walmart.com; the overall winner will also be able to sell in some Wal-Mart stores.

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 provide assistance to each participant. "Everything will be on a case-by-case basis, whether it is distribution assistance, production scale help or whatever else they might need," Bolte says.

Wal-Mart is not demanding exclusivity, so the winners may be able to sell the product on sites other than Walmart.com.



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