Finding quality wholesale suppliers is essential to the success of every e-commerce business. Without reliable sources of in-demand products, getting inventory will be a struggle and your business won't have the power to thrive.
While there are many ways to find legitimate wholesale suppliers, locating a supplier specific to your niche may not be as easy as you'd think. Wholesale suppliers don't advertise to the general public. Instead, there are specific industry channels you'll need to work through to locate legitimate wholesale suppliers.
In this article, we'll discuss six of the best ways online merchants, whether beginning or established, can find wholesale suppliers in their niche.
The first thing you need to know about finding a good wholesale supplier is that you must be a legal business. This means a having a business license, and in some states, a separate tax ID. If you don't have the legal paperwork, a wholesale supplier can't send you a catalog or quote you a price. So before you start the process of searching for wholesale suppliers, make sure you have your business paperwork in place.
A legitimate wholesale supplier has been authorized by the manufacturer to resell their products
What is a 'wholesale supplier?'
There are a lot of companies out there that call themselves wholesale suppliers when, in fact, they're not.
When looking for a legitimate wholesale supplier, your goal is to get the contact information for the manufacturer's authorized wholesaler. This is the supplier that has been authorized by the manufacturer to resell their products.
The manufacturer sits at the top of the supply chain. This is the person or company who makes the goods. Large manufacturers generally do not sell directly to retailers, although, some small to medium-sized manufacturers will.
A manufacturer focuses on making the product and selling it in bulk to wholesale suppliers. The wholesale supplier, in turn, takes the product and breaks it into "case lots," which it sells to the retailer.
Wholesale suppliers are also known as distributors or wholesale distributors.
Now that we've got some important basics covered, let's look at ways to find legitimate wholesale suppliers.
With more than 4,000 tradeshows held across the U.S. each year, it's not a question of if you should attend a tradeshow but rather which one and when. In addition to the U.S., there are thousands of tradeshows all over the world, in places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Copenhagen and Barcelona, just to name a few.
No matter what niche market you sell in, there is a tradeshow for you.
A tradeshow is a large exhibit designed to bring legitimate wholesale suppliers and retailers together. Tradeshow exhibitors (the suppliers) showcase their new products at the show. They're also there to talk to customers (you) and sell products.
Wholesale suppliers must apply to exhibit at the show, and it costs a significant amount of money to rent a booth. This means the suppliers you meet there are serious about doing business.
These events host hundreds or sometimes even thousands of vendors displaying hundreds of thousands of products. You'll get the opportunity to meet face to face with suppliers, preview the latest merchandise and pick up catalogs at each booth, and write merchandise orders, often at a tradeshow discount.
Many tradeshows now also host workshops at the events to foster retailer success.
Tradeshows are not open to the public, but they do have specific attendance requirements. And while you don't need to be an experienced merchant to attend, knowing the ropes before you get to the show will go a long way toward making it a success.
In Sourcing Products at Trade Shows, you'll learn the ins and outs of attending a tradeshow, how to navigate the tradeshow floor and the industry insider secrets for making the most of your trip to the show.
Research dates and locations for your next tradeshow at Trade Show News Network, the global resource for tradeshow events.
2. Tradeshow Web sites
Sometimes it's not necessary to travel to a tradeshow to connect with the suppliers that exhibited at the show. Tradeshow Web sites will often provide lists of current and past exhibitors online.
You'll find the tradeshow Web sites either at TSNN, or by searching for the name of the tradeshow in the search engines.
While merchandise marts don't boast as many suppliers as large tradeshows, you can visit hundreds of showrooms nearly any day of the year
3. Merchandise Marts
Merchandise Marts are big buildings that house a variety of wholesale manufacturers' showrooms under one roof. The Chicago Merchandise Mart is one of the largest in the world, and also hosts 16 major tradeshows a year.
There are also merchandise marts in big cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. To locate a merchandise mart, you can also Google the keywords "merchandise mart."
Merchandise marts host permanent showrooms—which means you can visit them all year around. While merchandise marts don't boast as many suppliers as large tradeshows, you can visit hundreds of showrooms nearly any day of the year. Merchandise marts require the same credentials for admittance as tradeshows.
While large manufacturers won't sell directly to retailers, small manufacturers or new companies often will—until they build up their distribution chain.
However, to find the manufacturer's authorized wholesale distributer for a particular product, you'll always want to start by calling the manufacturer. The manufacturer is the only one who can authorize wholesale distribution of their products. That's why you want to start at the source.
The easiest way to get in contact with a manufacturer is to start with the contact information on the product itself. Purchase the product you want to source, or go to your local mall and look at the tags. On the tag you'll usually find a phone number, address or Web site of the manufacturer. Sometimes you'll need to do a bit more digging if the product is being sold under a brand or subsidiary name.
Contact the manufacturer, ask for the sales department and tell the sales rep you're interested in retailing their products. At that point they will let you know if you can purchase the product directly, or they will give you the name of their authorized suppliers.
One of the best resources for finding suppliers for any product, in any industry, is a little-known directory available for free through the public library systems called ReferenceUSA. ReferenceUSA will enable you to find manufacturer and wholesaler contact information for any company in the U.S., and gives you access to the contact information for 12 million businesses.
This online database can be accessed from the comfort of your home. Library systems have to purchase the ReferenceUSA modules, but all major cities have it, as do many smaller cities. To find out if your library has the ReferenceUSA database, call your main library branch and ask. If it doesn't, library staff can direct you to a library system that does.
6. Search engines
Using the search engines to find wholesale suppliers can be fraught with problems, but it's still possible to find some legitimate wholesale suppliers' contact information through an online search.
Many unscrupulous online merchants pose as wholesale suppliers, peddling junk and fakes at rock-bottom prices
However, there are many pitfalls and dangers inherent in using this method—especially for the untrained eye. Many unscrupulous companies, who call themselves wholesale suppliers, advertise on the Internet. But they are simply online merchants posing as wholesale suppliers, peddling junk and fakes at rock-bottom prices.
Unfortunately, they prey on Internet entrepreneurs, especially newbies.
If you see a "wholesale supplier" advertising Sony cameras at 90 percent off, or Coach handbags at a 50-percent discount, that's an immediate indicator that this is not a legitimate wholesale supplier. Real wholesale suppliers will never advertise online in this manner.
If you think you've located a legitimate wholesale supplier on the Internet, verify the contact information by calling the manufacturer and asking if company "XYZ" is indeed a manufacturer's authorized wholesale supplier. Most of the time, the answer will be "no."
When looking for manufacturer-authorized wholesale suppliers, it's important to do your due diligence. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. And if a great supplier is easy to find, look a deeper, because you've likely stumbled upon a fake.
A numbers game
Keep in mind when looking for wholesale suppliers that you'll need to talk to a lot of vendors to find the ones who will work with you, and that you'll want to work with. You may need to talk to 10, 20 or even 30 vendors to identify five that are right for your business.
Finding the right supplier takes time, so don't give up on your search!
In this article we've looked at six ways to locate wholesale suppliers. But there are many other ways to find manufacturer's authorized wholesale suppliers. Should you want to explore locating wholesale suppliers and product sourcing in-depth, I recommend you take a look at Power of 10 Product Sourcing™, the complete product sourcing home study course. This course takes you from start to finish, through the process of deciding what to sell, locating the right niche (and the profitable niche) for you, as well as how to find and work successfully with wholesale suppliers.
Once you've found a great supplier, dedicate the time and effort to build a relationship with them. For an e-commerce business owner, great supplier relationships are like money in the bank! And your favorite supplier may just give you a hot tip on another good supplier in your niche.