Out of the many types of eCommerce businesses, wholesale can be one of the most interesting and rewarding. If you’re still learning the basics of wholesale, be sure to check out the wholesale definition first and continue on here to understand how to find vendors.
Learning how to become a wholesaler has a learning curve but can pay off with the right tools and knowledge. It's important to know how to get a wholesale license, how to run a wholesale business, and how to run a wholesale distribution business, too, so you can conduct business legally and successfully.
Once you’ve decided on which wholesale items to sell, it’s time to find service providers. The companies you research may vary widely depending on whether you sell goods to retailers, consumers, or both. It’s important to understand how wholesale partnerships work so you can make the most of your time and money.
Let’s look at how to find wholesalers and how to find vendors for your direct to consumer or B2B business.
How to Find Vendors and How Do I Find Wholesale Suppliers?
At times, trying to find vendors and wholesale suppliers may feel like learning a new language. There are thousands of suppliers operating globally, and the most trusted companies usually limit their number of partners. With the help of our guide below, you can find the suppliers you need.
Before we look at how to find the service providers you need, it’s important to understand how wholesale suppliers, vendors, and distributors are different, and the role each plays in the wholesale supply chain:
- A wholesale supplier is a company that first manufactures or produces a part, material, or product. They are the point of origin for goods and materials and sell their goods to vendors.
- A wholesale vendor is a company, service, or website that offers suppliers’ goods for sale. Vendors are aggregate sources of numerous wholesale suppliers and usually have their own branding.
- A wholesale distributor is a company that purchases wholesale goods and resells them to retailers or consumers. Wholesale alcohol distributors are one example of this. Distributors are the final step in the supply chain before a public sales environment is utilized by consumer-facing businesses.
Now that we’ve clarified who does what when it comes to how to find vendors, we can look at where to find wholesale suppliers and vendors:
- Browse online wholesale directories. These websites list hundreds or thousands of suppliers, often from a range of industries. While it’s the fastest way to find current suppliers, it’s not always the best. Bear in mind that some directories allow anyone to list products and therefore may be low in quality. Whether you plan to sell wholesale meat, wholesale seafood, wholesale dairy, wholesale produce, or other goods, research is essential.
- Attend trade shows, either locally or internationally. Hundreds of suppliers and vendors gather at industry events each year. The Global Sources Expo and Canton Fair are two of the most prominent. This is the quickest, high-leverage way to get in touch with proven vendors and suppliers. It’s also faster than using weeks-long email correspondence if you live in different time zones.
- Use supplier databases. There are numerous sites dedicated to providing supplier information. Use category, pricing level, and other filters on the site to narrow down what you’re looking for.
Knowing how to find vendors, such as wholesale vendors, is similar to the process for wholesale suppliers. Here are some tips to aid your search:
- Perform online searches for vendors. There are multiple vendor sites with established reputations, like GlobalSources, Alibaba, and Jungle Scout. These B2B eCommerce platforms offer detailed info on wholesale suppliers with a few clicks of your mouse. BlueCart is used by tens of thousands of wholesale suppliers and buyers for all types of products. Book a demo to learn how you can start selling on BlueCart, or connect with suppliers on our wholesale marketplace.
- Research your competitors’ methods. All goods imported to the US are recorded in the US customs database, which is freely accessible. By looking through which companies imported what goods, you can see where your competitors are sourcing from. This may reveal lower-cost alternatives.
- Subscribe to relevant publications. Most industries have quarterly or monthly publications with troves of info. This is a powerful, inexpensive way to discover vendors, companies seeking partnerships, and advertising opportunities.
- Browse forums and online groups. People with similar goals tend to share tips, and they often congregate in forums. Once you get to know a few people, they’ll be more likely to offer personal recommendations for vendors.
Manage and track your multiple vendors and streamline the entire procurement process. Download our free easy-to-use Wholesale Vendor Management Spreadsheet Templates.
How to Find Wholesalers and Distributors
If you’re a supplier or vendor, you probably want to know where to find wholesale distributors. This process is similar to finding suppliers and vendors:
- Determine the type of wholesale distributor(s) you need. Some wholesale distributors are middlemen between suppliers and retailers, others are dedicated resellers. The type of distribution you need will depend on your goals as a supplier. If you're learning how to start a coffee company, you'll need to find a coffee roaster.
- Maintain strong visibility at trade shows. Up-and-coming wholesale distributors know that they need to form relationships with suppliers. By attaining premium floor space and being friendly, you’ll have plenty of new opportunities.
- Search business directories, chambers of commerce, and local listings. Since business owners must register with their state, cities and towns list the businesses online. Between your own state’s listings and nationwide sources like Yelp and Synup, there are hundreds of business owners to reach out to.
- Browse sites like Amazon, eWorldTrade, and eBay. It should come as no surprise that hundreds of people engage in online wholesale trading. You can find more people and businesses to sell your products by examining product listings similar to your own.
How to Find Wholesale Deals
The wholesale industry includes many different approaches, but the common theme is buying and selling goods in mass quantities. Since buying many units can get expensive, this prompts businesses throughout the supply chain to look for deals year-round.
Obtaining materials at the best wholesale price possible directly benefits your bottom line. You won’t need to order products as often, which means you can spend more time on B2B marketing or DTC marketing, sales, and customer service.
Knowing how to buy wholesale deals includes resourcefulness, timing, and business savvy.
Here are some places to find wholesale deals:
- Supplier websites and newsletters. Suppliers run deals frequently to encourage purchases and remain profitable. These are perfect opportunities to stock up on goods and prepare in advance for seasonal sales cycles.
- Wholesale directories and industry websites. Any wholesale directory has every incentive to partner with successful businesses, so they will often spread the word about current deals. This cuts down on the amount of time resellers need to spend researching deals, too.
- Local events and trade shows. It goes without saying, but many suppliers and vendors advertise their deals during trade shows. These events draw thousands of people and benefit suppliers, vendors, and distributors.
- Clearance, import, and closeout sites. Sometimes consumer demand changes and businesses are left with large amounts of unwanted goods. Browsing clearance and closeout websites can yield amazing deals that buyers otherwise won’t seek out. It all depends on the type of products being offered, of course. Don’t buy something just to have it in your inventory. This may also help you avoid monthly fees for extra inventory storage.
How to Find Wholesalers for Dropshipping
If you’re looking for more convenience and fewer costs, you’re likely wondering how to find wholesalers for dropshipping. If dropshipping isn’t a familiar term, it’s the process of using a third-party service to create, pack, and ship goods that you sell via eCommerce software.
This method allows you to run a business without warehousing or inventory management, because you only send a product when the customer has already paid. Due to the popularity of dropshipping within eCommerce business ideas, wholesale dropshipping companies are more prevalent than they’ve ever been.
When looking into how to find vendors, keep in mind that the easiest way to find these service providers is by searching online. Each dropshipping wholesaler and dropshipping store is slightly different in what they offer and the brands they carry, so take your time as you research.
Here are some popular dropshipping business providers:
- Sunrise Wholesale
- Dropship Direct
- Wholesale Central
How to Find Wholesalers for Online Business
Finding wholesalers for your online business may be challenging. When you’re starting an eCommerce business, it’s difficult to know which businesses are worth partnering with. When you look into how to find vendors, keep in mind that suppliers want to know that you’re credible. They also want to know that you have the resources to sell products, which can be a barrier to entry at the very beginning.
With that said, there are best practices to use when researching wholesalers for your online business:
- Thoroughly vet suppliers. When you’re looking on a site like Alibaba, Worldwide Brands, an eCommerce marketplace, or B2B online marketplace, evaluate a company’s track record. Do they have a high delivery rate? Have they been selling for multiple years? Is their transaction rate high? The answers you uncover will determine if they’re worthwhile.
- Seek out references. If a product’s details seem too good to be true, it doesn’t hurt to ask other business owners about that company. You may discover the brand is excellent, or that something strange is happening. Asking for references is also a strong way to leverage trust between parties in general.
- Ask about their eCommerce business license. Anyone you’re dealing with should be above board, so they shouldn’t shy away if this comes up in conversation.
- Start small. If things look good and you’re ready to start selling, purchase their minimum order quantity (MOQ). This gives you first-hand experience with their turnaround times and how much demand you can generate for their products.
- Discuss RMA meaning with them. In the unlikely event you need to return products, your supplier should have a return merchandise authorization process, or RMA. Knowing this in advance will help the process go smoothly.
- Research product-specific outlets. The rate of eCommerce growth over the last few years has given rise to many platforms’ specialization. Websites like Printful, LA Show Room, and Wholesale Fashion Square are known for their wholesale dropshipping and apparel opportunities, respectively.
Frequently Asked Questions About Finding Wholesale Vendors
Understanding how to find vendors isn’t as easy as it seems. You need to know where to look, and also what business characteristics to look for. Check out these frequently asked questions and our answers:
How do I find local suppliers?
You can find local suppliers in several ways for your small business or wholesale venture. One way to find nearby suppliers is local business directories. Go to your township or village’s website, look for the business or commerce section, and browse until you find small business listings. This will show you the companies that are registered to do business.
Another way to find local suppliers is typing in “[your location] + wholesalers/wholesale market” in Google. This will pull up events, suppliers, websites, and more--all of which are local to your area.
An additional way is browsing a wholesale directory and using any location filters that are available. Wholesale directories are often some of the largest supplier lists and it’s much easier to narrow down by location once you find a site that works for you.
How do I find the best suppliers?
Finding the best suppliers is not a cut-and-dry process. In addition to having a viable business yourself, you need a firm understanding of what makes a reliable supplier. Here are some principles to use:
- Look at how long they’ve been in business, their reviews, and reputation. Suppliers with significant monthly order volume, strong reviews, and a great marketplace reputation are the ones you want to work with.
- Attend trade shows. Suppliers with a robust trade show presence, product samples, and enthusiastic representatives are who you’re looking for.
- Double check their minimum order quantity (MOQ). If it’s too large, it means they’re expecting you to sell that much if not more each sales cycle. If it’s too small, it may mean their network isn’t strong yet, or their products aren’t high quality enough.
Do supermarkets buy from wholesalers?
Yes, most supermarkets and grocery stores purchase goods from wholesalers. Not only does this keep costs low, it ensures strong relationships between wholesale suppliers, retailers, and consumers.
Buying products through the retail business model gives consumers a much broader selection of products than if they had to source from wholesalers themselves. Of course, consumers still purchase from farmers’ markets, which is a form of wholesale, but it’s still less common than shopping in retail.
How Do I Find Wholesale Suppliers?
To find wholesale suppliers, you may:
- Contact the manufacturer
- Perform a Google search for local wholesale suppliers
- Search the internet for domestic and international wholesale suppliers
- Attend trade shows
- Use a wholesale supplier directory
- Do market research on competitor products to determine their raw materials inventory source
What Are Vendor Lists?
Vendor lists consist of companies or people that businesses use to purchase products or services from. The vendors on the list may sell wholesale or individual items or services.
Take note that vendor lists are not to be confused with vendor loans used for investment properties and real estate wholesaling by a real estate investor.
Developing a mutual business relationship that leads to strong wholesale sales can be the beginning of a promising career. Remember that it’s best to take your time in forming a relationship than wish you hadn’t started it. Not all companies are equally ethical or hardworking, so maintaining a sense of value is crucial in this industry.
Having a strong wholesaling partner in place makes it easier to build a comprehensive wholesale marketing strategy and achieve a high fill rate. Be scrupulous when looking into how to find vendors, watch for deals, and you’ll be off to the races. Once you have your suppliers lined up, you should also look into using a catalog creator to create a shoppable list of your offerings.