Whether through an online store or a brick and mortar outlet, selling products as a retailer can be a viable business. However, after establishing your shop concept, you face a big hurdle—finding wholesale distributors for your store.
Unless you are experienced with wholesale distribution, you’ll find this to be no easy feat. From finding and vetting suppliers to establishing a good relationship with them, the whole process can be daunting to a small business. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give yourself some mental comfort because we’ve got you covered.
In this post, we’ll look at 7 best ways to find wholesale distributors for a retail business. You’ll also learn how to identify reliable and trustworthy wholesalers, plus get tips for communicating with them effectively.
With reliable distributors powering the back end of your shop, you can reduce shipping costs, offer better pricing, and improve your order fulfillment. Here’s everything you need to know.
What Are Wholesale Distributors?
Wholesale distributors are vendors that buy products in bulk directly from manufacturers with the intent of selling them to a retailer, who then sells them to consumers. Essentially, wholesalers act as the channel between your business and those who make the products you sell.
Most manufacturers don’t distribute their products, and this is where wholesalers come in. Wholesalers buy the items in bulk and sell them in smaller quantities to multiple retailers. From there, retailers add a markup on the purchase price and sell the goods to consumers.
As the link between you and the product, wholesale distributors form a crucial part of your business. They will affect your ability to deliver products on time, compete on price, and respond quickly to customer demands.
In other words, your business will only be as good as the wholesaler you work with. Below are some tips to help you get this critical business decision right.
How To Find Wholesale Distributors: 7 Best Tips
1. Run a Google Search
Google is always a good place to start any research. However, you may need to do more than just a regular search when it comes to wholesale distributors. This is because they rarely optimize their websites for search engines, which means finding them on Google isn’t that easy.
To increase your chances of finding the best wholesale distributors online, you need to perform targeted searches. You can try different search terms such as “supplier,” “reseller,” “distributor,” “wholesaler,” etc. You can also combine this with a specific product you want to sell and the region you are in.
For example, if you are looking for bulk t-shirt suppliers, a good search would be “ t-shirt wholesale distributors in Nashville, TN.”
2. Check Wholesale Marketplaces
Wholesale marketplaces are platforms that connect retailers like you with manufacturers and wholesale distributors of various items. Although there’s no shortage of these platforms, you probably want to use a marketplace that makes it convenient for small businesses to buy wholesale, like Handshake. (Clever marketing? Maybe. Valuable Tip? Certainly.)
Here at Handshake, we have many suppliers with low - or no - minimum order amount to help shop owners buy wholesale without draining their budget. We’ve also gathered plenty of vendors who have no minimum order requirements. This means you won’t need to order a certain quantity of products to do business with the wholesaler.
You can search for wholesalers by category, including:
- Beauty & Wellness
- Home & Living
- Apparel & Footwear
- Kids & Baby
What’s more, Handshake allows you to search by the vendor’s state to ensure you find a supplier close to home. Sourcing products from a distributor in or near your state can help reduce your shipping costs while allowing for faster deliveries. The best part is, the platform gives you access to tons of retail wholesale vendors, so you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one. Plus, there are thousands of unique, trendy products to help you make a statement.
3. Subscribe To Industry Publications
Trade magazines and other publications specific to your industry are some of the best places to find top wholesale distributors. Check out their ad section, where you’ll find a list of vetted manufacturers and distributors, along with their up-to-date contact information. Subscribing to relevant publications makes product sourcing easier by giving you hundreds of wholesale contacts to reach out to.
Besides trade magazines, you can subscribe to relevant online newsletters and blogs. Not only will they help you find relevant online wholesale vendors, but they will also give you a wealth of updated information about your industry.
For example, if you are looking for wholesale clothing distributors to partner with, you could subscribe to top fashion publications like:
- Women’s Wear Daily (WWD): The publication provides information and intelligence on changing trends. It currently has over 60k subscribers.
- Harper’s Bazaar: The New York publication has a digital version, and it showcases the latest fashion from designers and beauty experts. It also provides information on upcoming events.
- Sportswear International: This publication hails from Germany but has a huge following in the US. It focuses on denim and sportswear fashion.
Similar magazines are available for most industries.
4. Read the Label
One of the most straightforward ways of finding wholesale vendors is by contacting the manufacturer. Almost all manufacturers mention their details and contact information on the product’s label, which you can use to inquire about distributors.
Contacting the manufacturer can also help you cut out middlemen who may eat into your profits. For instance, some buyers tend to pose as legitimate distributors of certain items, but they actually get the products from wholesalers and sell them at a margin. You can ask the manufacturer for an official list of distributors to weed out such parties.
5. Join Online Communities and Associations
Sometimes, the best wholesale distributor recommendations come from other business owners. Your job is to find and network with them. You can do this by joining online groups where they usually hang out.
Here are some resources to check:
Joining professional associations can also help you identify relevant distributors for your products. Typically, an association will give you access to a list of wholesalers that serve your industry and locality. You can find a list of member associations pertaining to your industry through the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW).
Those looking for wholesale distributors in the US can join US-based associations to find potential wholesalers.
6. Attend a Trade Show
A proven way to find wholesale distributors is to attend trade shows in your industry. These events enable you to meet dozens of manufacturers and product distributors within a day. Plus, face-to-face communication offers an opportunity to develop a good working relationship and negotiate the best prices.
While at the trade show, try to analyze the quality of the products and prices offered by the different wholesalers. Figure out which ones are the most suitable for your business and make an offer to purchase in bulk.
For a start, 10Times has compiled a list of the top 100 trade fairs, trade shows & conferences you should look out for in 2022. These events take place in different locations throughout the year, so look for the ones that best suit you and your industry.
To make the best out of a show, research the exhibitors beforehand to know more about their business, and be ready to answer questions about yours.
7. Ask for Referrals
Asking for referrals from other retailers may sound crazy, but it actually isn’t. You don’t need to ask your direct competitors, but rather from people doing similar businesses in other regions.
As mentioned earlier, you can easily make friends in the industry when attending trade shows and joining online groups. Even if you’re already working with a distributor, it’s always smart to learn about other wholesalers (in case you need another supplier to meet a sudden spike in demand). .
There are also events organized to allow business owners like you to meet like-minded people. One of these is the Small Business Expo, which bills itself as America’s largest business networking & educational event. The event takes place in multiple cities throughout the country, and you can use the opportunity to create business relationships.
How to Vet New Wholesalers and Distributors
Ensuring that a wholesale distributor delivers what they promise is key to running a successful business. The last thing you want is for a customer to complain about product quality or delayed shipping. Fortunately, there are ways to fact-check a wholesaler’s claims to ensure you get quality products and top service from their end.
Here’s a list of things you should do.
Evaluate Their Business Operations
One of the best ways to assess a distributor’s reliability is by evaluating how they manage their logistics and inventory. Evaluate the sizes of their warehouses, how they handle stock, whether they have their own fleet, and if they have reputable logistics partners.
Ask for a few items from the distributor and evaluate their quality before you make a bulk order. This will help ensure that you’re not wasting money on counterfeit or sub-par items. Alternatively, you can place a small order with the distributor to analyze their customer service and delivery time. Doing so will help you determine whether you can trust them to support your business.
Check Their Track Record
Your prospective distributor probably has existing clientele. See if you can get hold of their contact information and reach out to ask about their experience dealing with the vendor. Such details are typically mentioned in the “About Us” or “Who We Serve” page on the wholesaler’s website.
Popular Wholesale Products and Distributors
Selling clothes online has an easy entry point, so a lot of retailers are looking for clothing wholesalers who serve as long-term partners of their business. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can help you connect with clothing vendors:
- Chinabrands – has a great selection of wholesale clothing distributors.
- Wholesale7 – is a wholesaler that focuses on Japanese and Korean clothing styles.
- Magnolia Wholesale – deals in boutique clothing and swimwear for all ages.
Beauty products are highly popular among retailers, and the possibilities to earn a profit are constantly growing in line with the surging demand. A few resources where you can find wholesale beauty supply distributors:
- Image Beauty – sells all types of beauty products, including cosmetics, hair care, etc.
- Jinny – is the largest ethic and multicultural beauty supply distributor in the world.
- Worldmakeup – lists over 100,000 brand name cosmetics and merchandise on its wholesale website.
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and we all need to eat every day. So regardless of any shifts in consumer spending, when it comes to selling food, you should always have an audience. Some websites where you can find wholesale food distributors:
- Sysco – delivers high-quality meat, seafood, and imported foods offering global flavors.
- Dot Foods – delivers to consumers in most states in as little as two days.
Tips for Communicating With a Distributor
Getting a good deal often comes down to how you communicate with a wholesaler. Here are some tips
- Be honest and open. When you address a situation honestly, solutions become available. For instance, telling a vendor upfront that you’re a small business with a limited budget might encourage them to set terms that allow you to buy products on partial payments.
- Respect their time. Your potential distributor likely has other clients, which means they get dozens of emails and calls each day. Keeping your communication clear and concise is key to making them take notice. Once the distributor sees that you are super easy to work with, you can bet that they will prioritize your messages over other things.
- Make an offer they can’t refuse. Distributors typically want recurring income. If you can offer them this type of stability (for instance, through frequent order placements), it will increase your chances of securing a deal.
Finding the right wholesale distributor is a key part of ensuring your retail business’s success. You now know about the several ways you can find and vet them, as well as how to form a good working relationship. While the distributors focus on sourcing and delivering, you can focus on managing your store and driving sales of your business.
And if they want to work with you as much as you want to work with them, that could be the start of a long and profitable business relationship.