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Tips for Finding and Working with Wholesale Suppliers

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Tips for Finding and Working with Wholesale Suppliers

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: April 15, 2010

So you want to sell retail?

Whether you are setting up a main street store or an online store, you are going to need a relationship with a wholesaler or wholesalers. The same goes for service-based businesses such as hair salons and auto body shops, who can often earn additional income from selling complementary products in their business location.

However, finding and forming a trusted relationship with the right wholesaler can seem a daunting prospect; unless you have done your research and have an idea of what to expect.

Here are some tips for finding and entering into a business relationship with wholesale suppliers for your retail business:

1) Set up a Legitimate Retail Business

Whether you plan to sell products from a concession stand, retail store, or e-commerce site (including eBay) first make sure you set your business up correctly and within the law.

This article--How to Start a Retail Business' A Step-by-Step GuideWhen does a Business Start Paying Taxes? A 101 in Small Business Tax Requirementscollecting sales taxes over the Internet.

2) Understanding the Wholesale Business - Types of Wholesalers

Wholesalers come in all shapes and sizes and serve retailers through a variety of distribution channels and supply chains. This chain starts with manufacturers, and includes importers or exclusive distributors (who often sell to wholesalers), wholesalers or regional distributors (who'distribut' goods locally) and brokers/jobbers (who often deliver wholesale goods to local small businesses such as small groceries stores).

It's important to be aware that, as a new small business, it is unlikely that you will be able to buy directly from a high-volume wholesaler or manufacturer, simply because your sales volume won't support buying in any kind of bulk, at least at the outset. There are however, many smaller manufacturers and wholesale distributors who will gladly sell and ship to small businesses. And as your sales volume grows you will be able to move up the supply chain and demand better wholesale volumes and subsequently, lower rates.

3) Finding Wholesalers

There are several paths you can follow to seek out reputable wholesalers. Here are just a few:

  • Talk to Others in Your Trade - If you know of similar businesses to yours in your locale, go and check out their merchandise. This can often give you a sense of what stock you need as well as which merchandise appears to be popular. You can quickly gauge what their most successful stock is, often just by its placement. Products that don't sell can often be found on the sale rack or clearance bin. If you feel confident enough that you won't compete directly with the store, talk to the business owner about where they source their stock and ask for wholesale recommendations.
  • Talk to Brand Manufacturers - Brand manufacturers sometimes sell wholesale but usually only in high volume. However, it doesn't hurt to contact them and ask. If they don't sell wholesale, they can often refer you to wholesalers or distributors who do.
  • Search the Web - Don't underestimate the power of local search engines. Google Search* and Yellow Pages* list just about every business in the U.S. and that includes wholesalers. Search for wholesalers by zip code, to quickly identity a shortlist of local suppliers. Other sources include wholesale directories, such as www.wholesalecentral.com* or www.alibaba.com*, among others. These offer good sources of information and connect you instantly with wholesalers and importers in the U.S. and globally. You can also search the wholesale lots on eBay (via an easy search or by product category) - although these tend to be for very low volume retailers.
  • Trade Shows - If you have the budget and the time to attend trade shows you may find that they are the best places to buy wholesale products. Trade show directories, one of the largest being www.tsnn.com*, let you search for events by industry, zip code and date. To get the most out of a trade show, always plan ahead (have a goal, know your budget and inventory needs, identify exhibitors and set up appointments in advance). And remember, you are marketing your own business to potential wholesale partners too. Read Effectively Marketing Your Business through Trade Shows by small business author Rieva Lesonsky, to get tips on getting the most out of trade shows.
  • Trade Publications - Another direct way to source wholesalers in your particular industry or business is to read trade magazines. Many wholesalers use these magazines as a vehicle for placing ads.

4) Entering into an Agreement with a Wholesale Vendor

Once you have identified a supplier(s) do your due diligence to ensure the reliability of their service and product quality. Ask for references and do your own research. The Better Business Bureau* can help you identify any complaints filed against a wholesaler. Read - Researching a Company Part 1 and Part 2 for tips and pointers that can help you assess whether your vendors are up to par.

You also need to ensure that the wholesaler's sales representative explains their volume discounts, return policies, order processing time, as well as any terms-enforced restrictions such as advertising conditions.

Take your time before making any decision and be ready to negotiate for what you need in terms of price, minimum order quantities, delivery schedules, etc.

Once you have reached a decision, insist that any verbal agreements are added to the wholesale contract and, if you can, have a lawyer or attorney review it - especially if you are new to the retail business.

Happy selling!

Additional Resources

Get tips from other small business owners by joining the How to Find Wholesalers discussion on the Business.gov Community.

Related Articles

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government Web site.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley


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


Excellent article--I'm always a fan of tips for small businesses! Online wholesale providers are an excellent alternative to the cost, carbon footprint, and time out of office associated with attending trade shows. I'd like to suggest FGmarket.com as another choice for retailers. FGmarket works diligently to provide a directory of high quality wholesale suppliers. We are an American company featuring wholesalers with products and lines from around the world in addition to our Made in the USA wholesale providers. Again, thank you for taking the time to provide information for our small businesses.
This is very informative article and will really helpful for all retailers who are trying to find the reliable wholesale platform. I also want to inform the readers about an authentic wholesale supplier's directory which is running with the aim to help their users with its best efforts that is wholesalepages.co.uk. I hope this information will help the step number three of finding wholesale suppliers.
Are you trying to find wholesale products at prices that allow you to make money? Are you trying to find reliable drop shippers and suppliers that actually provide good service? It can be tough to find quality suppliers. There is nothing better that using suppliers online. Using suppliers online gives you the convenience of seeing their products and being able to communicate with them directly all from the comfort of your home or office. If you are trying to set up a business or a shop then you must find products from wholesalers at discounted prices. It is critical that you find goods at cheap prices so you can maximize your profits and have the best chance of creating a profitable business. Searching the internet can result in finding hundreds of wholesale suppliers. If you want to meet credible wholesalers and want to make a profit on your time an investment.Check out the ifindwholesalers.com directory. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Please note that Community members may include only one (1) link in their signature line. Any additional links to websites, social network profiles, or email addresses will be removed. Thank you.

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