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Wholesale Distributors: 7 Tips on Finding a Wholesale Vendor for Your Shop

Whether through an online marketplace or a physical store, selling products as a retailer can be a viable idea. However, after establishing your shop concept, you face a big hurdle – finding suitable wholesalers for your shop.

Unless you happen to own a factory, you’ll find this to be no easy feat. The whole concept of wholesale distribution can often turn out to be a nightmare, from finding and vetting suppliers to establishing a working rapport. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give yourself some mental comfort because we’ve got you covered. 

In this post, we’ll take you through what wholesale distribution is and help you find trustworthy wholesale vendors for your business. 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?

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 that make the products you sell.

Most manufacturers don’t distribute their products, and this is where wholesalers come in. They buy the manufactured products and sell them in smaller quantities to multiple retailers. From there, retailers add a markup on the final cost to determine the selling price.

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

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 may not be easy.

To increase your chances of getting 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 wholesale clothing distributors, a good search would be “wholesale women’s clothing distributors in Nashville, TN.”

Google search wholesalers

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’ve set the minimum order to a maximum of $300 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.

Handshake wholesale distributors

You can search for wholesalers by category, including: 

  • Beauty & Wellness
  • Jewelry
  • Home & Living
  • Apparel & Footwear
  • Kids & Baby

What’s more, Handshake allows you to search by the vendor’s state to make sure that you find a party that meets your needs. Sourcing 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 in your industry are some of the best places to find top wholesale distributors. There’s usually a list of pre-vetted manufacturers and distributors in the ad section.

The distributors usually have updated contact information, and they are waiting for retailers and brands to contact them. This makes the whole process easier, and you will have dozens of options to reach out to.

Apart from magazines, you can also 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 a boutique owner, here are some of the top fashion publications.

  • 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 checking the product itself. Almost all manufactures provide their details and contact information on the product’s label, which you can use to contact them and inquire about distributors. 

Contacting the manufacturer also comes with great benefits in that you can cut out the 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 these illicit intermediaries. 

Product label manufacturer information

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. If you are looking for wholesale distributors in the US, you can check out US-based associations and join one related to your niche. This will give you access to a list of wholesalers that serve your industry and locality.

Another starting point is the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, or NAW. Their website has a list of member associations for almost every industry.

6. Attend a Trade Show

A proven way to find wholesale distributors is to attend trade shows in your industry. They are a great way 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 2021. 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.

Top 100 trade shows 2021

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 good to know how other people are doing business. 

There are also events organized to allow business owners like you to meet like-minded people. One of these is 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.

Vetting Prospective Distributors’ Claims

Ensuring that a 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, you create a guideline of what you expect from your potential wholesale distributors and then fact-check their claims to prevent such instances. 

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 other logistics partners. Also, look for reviews from their existing customers on whether they deliver on time.

Order Samples

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 and analyze their customer service and shipping time to determine if they are the right fit for your business.

Order samples from wholesale distributors

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.

Communication & Customer Relationships

As an agreed way of working together, top distributors continually share health-check information and communicate with their retailers. This fosters trust and ensures that the retailer is aware of any complications that may arise. 

As part of the communication, the distributor should have already invested in the appropriate technology to provide up-to-date information about shipments.

Tips for Communicating With a Distributor

Getting a good deal often comes down to how you communicate with a distributor. Here are some tips that may give you an edge: 

  • Understand what the distributor wants: 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

Conclusion

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 your customers and growing your market. 

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.

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