Sales and marketing services leader Crossmark unveiled a first-of-its-kind collaboration center on July 10 just steps from Walmart’s Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters. The new facility offers the retailer and its trading partners a wide range of joint business planning, shopper insights and store execution capabilities.
The 18,500-sq.-ft. facility, branded as the CROSSMARK Center for Collaboration, is unlike anything in the retail industry due to its proximity to the world’s largest retailer and range of capabilities. It features nine rooms of various sizes with flat panel displays and state-of-the-art communications technology, a presentation kitchen where food samples can be prepared as a customer would in a home environment and a solutions center focused on on-shelf availability and shopper research. In addition, there are two rooms equipped with 8 foot by 16 foot PRYSM digital touch-screen walls capable of replicating store shelves and a large space on the second floor that can accommodate more than 100 people for meetings or be converted into a product display area.
At the opening ceremony, Mike Graen, Crossmark’s vp of collaboration, characterized the facility as a tool that will enable new levels of collaboration. Crossmark CEO Ben Fischer added that the Center fits with the premise on which the company was founded.
“As a service company, we were built to help other companies achieve their goals by finding better ways to build and grow brands and reduce costs,” Fischer said.
Increasingly that process involves retailers and suppliers working more closely together across a range of disciplines such as merchandising, marketing, operations and supply chain in their respective organizations. Crossmark hopes to facilitate such meetings at its new facility with existing clients as well as companies who are not its customers.
“It can’t just be for our clients because that would defeat the purpose and it wouldn’t create value for Walmart,” Fischer said. “We are going to help brands and retailers find better ways to engage with shoppers.”
While the opening of the facility marks a new chapter in collaboration between Walmart and its suppliers, the event was also an opportunity for Crossmark to recognize the contributions of Joe Crafton who retired as CEO earlier this year.
“It truly was Joe’s idea,” Fischer said of his long time business partner and predecessor. “He has always been a guy who was willing to run out in front of the pack. He found ways to do things that most of us never saw.”
From Crafton’s perspective, the inspiration for the Center wasn’t anything so grand.
“It came about as a result of me needing a parking space,” Crafton said.
While visiting Walmart’s home office for a meeting with U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon, Crafton was having difficulty locating a parking space. Desperate, he parked in the front yard of a small home adjacent to Walmart’s headquarters occupied by a woman who decades earlier had sold a portion of her land to Sam Walton.
After his meeting ended, Crafton knocked on the woman’s door to apologize for parking in her front yard. The apology turned into a 30 minute conversation that led to a connection to the woman’s son who upon his mother’s passing sold the property to Crossmark, but not until Crafton made sure Walmart didn’t have designs on the real estate.
“Joe saw a little plot of land and recognized the opportunity,” Fischer said. “The real key for us long term is we’ve got to make sure we always provide the latest and greatest capabilities and technology.”