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4 Tips for Researching and Finding Wholesale Suppliers

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4 Tips for Researching and Finding Wholesale Suppliers

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: July 5, 2012 Updated: September 28, 2016

Starting a retail or service business? Looking to form relationships with wholesale suppliers?

There are currently 300,000 companies in the U.S. wholesale distribution industry, so as you can imagine, finding and forming trusted relationships with wholesalers takes time and research.

Here are some tips for finding wholesalers, and best practices for entering into agreements with them.

1. The Wholesale Business

The wholesale industry is large and highly fragmented, with 50 of the largest distributors generating 25 percent of industry revenue. Wholesalers serve retailers and other service businesses through a variety of distribution channels and supply chains. At the top of the chain are manufacturers (including importers or exclusive distributors – who also sell to wholesalers). Next are wholesalers or regional distributors (who distribute the goods locally) and brokers/jobbers (who deliver goods to local small businesses such as independent produce stores).

2. It’s All About Volume

The wholesale business is volume-centric. The more you can buy, the lower wholesale prices become, and the higher your profits are as a result. So as a new small business, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to negotiate relationships from a high-volume wholesaler, simply because your sales volume won’t yet support buying in any kind of bulk. Smaller wholesalers will sell and ship to small businesses, and as you move forward and your sales increase, you’ll be able to graduate up the supply chain to negotiate higher volumes and lower rates.

3. Researching and Finding Wholesalers

Finding wholesalers takes time, but there are a number of best practices you can use to help your research efforts:

  • Search the Internet –Search for wholesalers by product to help you pinpoint local suppliers (this will bring up nationwide suppliers), then add your zip code to the search so that your results are localized. You can also search and online associations, trade directories, or wholesale directories such as Wholesale Central or Wholesale Network.
  • Trade Shows – Trade shows are great venues for finding wholesalers if you’ve got the budget and the time. Trade show directories such as TSNN and 10times can help you pinpoint events by industry and location. 
  • Trade Magazines – Check out the ads and classifieds for wholesalers in your industry.
  • Ask Around – It might not be appropriate to ask your competitors where they source their inventory from, but ask around if you are out of town attending a local business networking event (Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Center, etc.).
  • Talk to Brand Manufacturers - Brand manufacturers sometimes sell wholesale, but usually only in high volume. However, they might be able to refer you to wholesalers or distributors that will sell to small businesses.

4. The Wholesale Agreement

Now that you’ve found your supplier, do your due diligence. Ask about volume discounts, return policies, and order processing time. Before you sign any contract, be prepared to negotiate pricing terms, minimum order quantities, delivery schedules, etc.  Add these agreements to the terms, and consider having an attorney review it before signing.

Don’t forget to ask for references and do your own research. The Better Business Bureau is a useful resource for a quick background check for complaints.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


You tips number 3 is best way for Researching and Finding Wholesale Suppliers. Know more tips click this link.
I suggest TradeLizard, for finding wholesale supplier around the world. This is an awesome new online platform to find wholesale manufacturers and suppliers and It’s free for buyers/resellers with a very quick sign up process. This is website: and I would like to recommend to everyone !!
Yeah, new but good B2B Portal.
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@caronbeesley - What are your views on sites like or or that provide listing for wholesale suppliers?
I wish the SBA, a .gov entity, would do better research and stop posting recommended wholesaler collectives. I was scammed by one recommended by our local - recommended on the .gov website! The company to which the SBA referred me, took me for over $300 in "membership fees". They were supposed to be fully refundable if I wasn't satisfied. So I signed up, and realized that the wholesalers they listed were mostly junk. When I tried to cancel my membership - within the allotted time, the company refused. I should have known better, because when I was reviewing the company, I found several blog posts by the owner of that company, degrading and slandering his own customers, the ones who disagreed with his business practices and requested refunds. That was a red flag but I was so eager to find wholesalers. A business owner should always be honorable and well spoken, at least in public venues. Never belittle your customers. Now I am likely one of his rants, being criticizing for requesting to close my account. Shady. My fault for not trusting my instincts but bad practice for you SBA for recommending these people to new small business owners.
Uniburr, you can be both and there are companies doing just that within the promotional products industry. They have a wholesale business and retail business(under a different name). As a distributor, I try to avoid these supplier and distributors like the plague. That is, unless they have a clear cut distribution and marketing channel for both. Companies such as Bic Graphic, 3M, and others do retail business through a separate retail division and promotional products through a separate division.
Volume is key, the more money you can start out with buying... the better pricing you can get, which means more room for profit.
I have a question regarding working with a distributor. He is interested in becoming a distributor for my product. In addition he wants to be a sales rep for us as well. Can he be both? Im under the impression he buys in bulk to receive higher discount as a distributor then sales his inventory to make a profit. If he is a sales rep he would be selling from our inventory correct? Wouldn't he want to sell from only his inventory to make a profit first? Any help will this is greatly appreciated. Thanks
Wow, this post reminds me of my previous room mate. She was always talking about this. This was such a great read. I’m surprised my former room mate has never come across it. I am really enjoying the information that I have found on this site! There is alot to learn. I understand creating trusting relationships is vitally important with wholesale distribution facilities. Finding inventory to sell on line has been tough, as of late, with the popularity given to FBA sellers. I've been involved with FBA for a while and sourcing inventory the old fashioned way is getting kind of hard to mulnipulate. I find this to be my biggest challenge to run a successful store online and create stable price strategies. Most of the podcasts, youtubes, and informations about the sourcing inventory isn't that accurate, cumbersome to understand, or hard to find. I am still skeptical about buying products. On this post I did find a nice collection of very useful information that has energized me to get away from sourcing most of my products on auctions. I would like to invest in new items with a decent ROI. Sourcing inventory through wholesale channels seems to be the best avenue for bringing a steady stream. I would like to know peoples opinions of some of the companies that they dealt with and their experiences: good and bad. That could probably be a new article ;) The other question I have is - has anyone tried sourcing Oval Screwdrivers with Newelectronx. The coffee sales have been trending & I was wondering if that would be a lucrative market to investigate for inventory. I'm trying to speed up doing my research with your wisdom. I'll add your collective thoughts to my homework - as with the pointers of this post. In the meantime, I'm also going to forward this link to my old room mate. I know she will form a great conversation about this topic over tea.


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