Whether through an online store or a brick-and-mortar outlet, selling new products as a retailer can be a viable business. However, after establishing your shop concept, entrepreneurs face a big hurdle: finding wholesale distributors for your store.
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.
With reliable distributors powering the back end of your shop, you can reduce shipping costs, offer competitive pricing, and improve your order fulfillment. In other words: your business will only be as good as the wholesaler you’ve chosen as a partner.
In this post, we’ll look at 12 of the best wholesale distributors to grab a bargain for your online business. You’ll also learn how to identify reliable and trustworthy wholesalers, plus get tips for communicating with them effectively.
Table of contents
12 best wholesale distributors
- Magnolia Fashion Wholesale
- Image Beauty
- Dot Foods
- Cardinal Health
- GTS Distribution
- MSC Industrial Supply Co.
- Reydon Sports
1. Magnolia Fashion Wholesale
If you’re looking to start a clothing business, Magnolia Fashion Wholesale is a great option. The wholesale distributor sells boutique clothing—including dresses, t-shirts, and swimwear—at cheaper prices when you buy in bulk.
DollarDays is a wholesale distributor that specializes in supplying products to nonprofits, schools, and philanthropic organizations. If your business has a strong purpose and mission statement, you could buy wholesale items—like baby products, personal care products, and pet supplies—through its wholesale site.
3. Image Beauty
Beauty products are highly popular among retailers, and the possibilities to earn a profit are constantly growing in line with their surging demand.
Take advantage of this business opportunity and buy wholesale products through Image Beauty’s wholesale store. It distributes all types of beauty products, including cosmetics, hair care, and fragrances, which you can resell through your own store.
Wordmakeup is a wholesale distributor that lists over 100,000 brand-name cosmetics and merchandise on its website. You can source makeup from designer brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Gucci, and NARS on its wholesale storefront.
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and we all need to eat every day—so you should always have an audience when selling food online, even amongst recession and inflation fears. Sysco is one of the world’s largest food wholesaler distributors: it delivers high-quality meat, seafood, and imported foods in a range of global flavors.
6. Dot Foods
Dot Foods is another wholesale food distributor that delivers items in most states in as little as two days. You can source 123,000 products from over 1,500 suppliers, making it a great option if you’re looking to sell a variety of food-based products through your own online store.
7. Cardinal Health
Cardinal Health is a wholesale distributor that sells health care and pharmaceutical products. If you’re selling medical supplies through your own online store, you can source wholesale quality products from this distributor for less than the recommended retail price (RRP).
8. GTS Distribution
GTS Distribution has been around since 1976 and distributes wholesale games, sports equipment, toys, and entertainment collectibles. It’s a great option if you’re looking to make money from your hobbies. You could source your favorite games from the distributor and resell them with a higher markup through your online store.
Petra is a wholesale electronics distributor and a fantastic place to source fitness watches, cellphones, and kitchen equipment at wholesale prices.
Costco is one of the world’s largest wholesale distributors. It buys general merchandise directly from the manufacturer and resells the items in bulk to other trade customers. You’ll find more than 4,000 SKUs in multiple different categories—from home décor to food products—that are available to buy online and in one of its 847 stores worldwide once you have a trade membership.
11. MSC Industrial Supply Co.
If you’re selling machinery or appliance parts online—or even manufacturing your own machines using wholesale parts—MSC Industrial Supply Co. is a high-quality wholesale distributor. MSC sells power tools, automotive parts, adhesives, and hand tools through its B2B store.
12. Reydon Sports
Reydon Sports is a leading wholesale distributor of sporting goods. It sells sports equipment across different categories—including golf, football, and basketball—through its wholesale online store.
Reydon also offers a dropshipping service that can pick, pack, and ship orders directly to your customer once they place an order through your online store.
How to vet new wholesale distributors
Unfortunately, not every wholesale distributor is a good one—and the last thing you want is for a customer to complain about low 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 to vet wholesale distributors.
Evaluate their business operations
One of the best ways to assess a distributor’s reliability is by evaluating how they manage their supply chain and inventory. Assess the sizes of their warehouses, how they handle stock, whether they have their own fleet, and if they have partnerships with reputable logistics companies.
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. This is especially important for dropshippers—sampling will help you determine whether you can trust the dropshipping supplier to support your ecommerce business and whether the products meet your business needs (since you might not otherwise be seeing them in the flesh).
Check their track record
Your prospective distributor probably has existing clientele. See if you can find these customers’ contact information and reach out to ask about their experience dealing with the vendor. Client details are typically mentioned in the About Us or Who We Serve page on the wholesale distributor’s website.
Tips for finding the best wholesale distributor
If you’re still stuck on finding the best wholesale distributor, here are seven tips to make sure you’re choosing the right one.
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. 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, use different search terms such as “supplier,” “reseller,” “distributor,” “wholesaler,” etc. You can also combine these terms with a specific product you want to sell and the region you’re in.
For example, if you’re looking for high-end clothing suppliers, a good search would be “boutique clothing wholesale distributors in New York, USA.” Or if you’re searching for food suppliers, search “food distributors in Texas.”
2. Check wholesale marketplaces
Wholesale marketplaces connect retailers like you with manufacturers and wholesale distributors of various items. They give you access to tons of retail wholesale vendors so you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one.
Marketplaces like Faire have many suppliers with low minimum order amounts to help shop owners buy wholesale without draining their budget.
Most wholesale marketplaces also allow you to search by location to find a supplier close to home. If you’re in California, for example, filtering products from a distributor in or near your state (rather than somewhere further afield like China) can help reduce your shipping costs while allowing for faster deliveries.
3. Subscribe to industry publications
Online newsletters and blogs give you a wealth of updated information about your industry. For example, if you’re looking for wholesale clothing distributors, you could subscribe to top fashion publications like:
Besides online publications, trade magazines and other industry-specific publications are some of the best places to find top wholesale distributors.
Check out magazine ad sections to 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 connect with.
4. Read the label
One of the most straightforward ways of finding wholesale distributors is by contacting the manufacturer. Almost all manufacturers mention their details and contact information on a product’s label, which you can use to inquire about distributors.
This strategy 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 with a markup to earn a higher profit margin. 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 online business owners. You can source these recommendations by joining online groups where owners usually hang out—like LinkedIn communities or Facebook Groups.
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).
6. Attend a trade show
A proven way to find wholesale distributors is to attend trade shows in your industry. You can 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, analyze the quality of the products and prices offered by the different wholesale distributors. Figure out which ones are the most suitable for your online business and make an offer to purchase in bulk.
To make the best out of a trade show, research the exhibitors beforehand to know more about their business—and be ready to answer questions about yours.
7. Ask for referrals
You don’t need to ask your direct competitors for a list of wholesale distributors they’re working with, but rather from people doing similar online businesses in other regions.
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 wholesale 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 and educational event.
The event takes place in multiple cities throughout the country, and you can use the opportunity to create business relationships that could uncover more selective distributors.
Wholesale distributors FAQ
What is a wholesale distributor?
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.
Who is the largest wholesale distributor?
Costco is one of the largest wholesale distributors. It sells products in a range of categories through its online wholesale website and warehouse stores.
What is an example of a distributor?
Image Beauty is an example of a wholesale distributor. It sources cosmetics from manufacturers and resells them to other retailers in bulk, at a lower price than the RRP.
What's the difference between a distributor and a wholesaler?
Both distributors and wholesalers sell products to retailers in bulk, at a lower cost per unit. The difference is that wholesalers sell their own products, whereas a distributor sources products from a manufacturer.