How-To

Buying Wholesale: The Basics

A retailer’s success is greatly dependent on selling the right products at the right price at the right time in the right place. Choosing products for your store is one thing, locating and finding the sources for your products is another thing, and is among the most important. You should already know what sort of products or product lines you wish to purchase for your store, so your greatest task will be finding the suppliers that carry your specific type of wholesale merchandise.

A good way to get an idea of what type of wholesalers you should be looking for would be to visit a competitor’s store, someone who carries the same or similar type of merchandise that you wish to sell. Walk around and take some mental notes on the brands that you see and like. Look at what’s selling well and what’s not.

Most commonly, retail buyers find their merchandise by looking online, attending trade shows or buyer’s markets, using library sources, and even joining buying groups. One of the best ways to find what you are looking for without doing too much back and forth is to attend a trade show. If you attend trade shows that cater to your industry and market, it is almost guaranteed that you will find exactly what you are looking for.

There are so many trade shows for various industries, and you can find upwards of 10,000 suppliers or more at a single trade show! You can search online for the best trade shows to attend for your industry. Trade shows are for industry-only professionals, so you need to be able to show proof of identification and that you are a retailer. It will get easier and easier as you become more established and you will most likely develop good relationships with suppliers, and then when it comes to buying, you won’t have to deal with so many suppliers, just the ones that you are used to working with. And in most cases, once you are a well-established retailer, wholesale merchandisers will be coming to you, instead of you to them.

Types of Suppliers

Distributors are sort of an “in between” type of supplier, between the manufacturer and the wholesale buyer. Distributors usually purchase a certain type of product category or several types of product categories from the manufacturer, and then resells it to retail buyers. The drawback of distributors is that they have to also make a profit, so they tend to be a little more expensive than if you were to buy directly from the manufacturer,

Manufacturers often sell their products directly to the retail buyer at wholesale prices. The problem with buying from manufacturers is that it is quite common that the minimum orders are extremely high. If you are interested in a certain manufacturer’s product line, ask if they sell directly to retailers. If they don’t, ask what distributors they sell to so that you may be in contact with them.

Importers are more common now than they have ever been before. The global market is expanding rapidly and it is so easy to purchase products from an importer, or even directly from the foreign country. But before you commit to an importer for your products, do the appropriate research. You need to understand all of the aspects of importing, including all of the necessary paperwork, lead time for shipping, and any and all other costs associated with importing.

Auctions are also good places for retailers to find some good bargains. eBay is a very common auction website, and in fact is the world’s largest. You can find tons of merchandise for your store when searching on auction websites (eBay is a better choice).

Liquidators and other wholesalers are another option. These type of places often sell wholesale merchandise by the truck load, and often sell several types of merchandise in several different categories. The goods that these types of suppliers sell are even sometimes damaged, and they are just trying to get rid of them. If this is your chosen route, make sure that you understand all of the costs associated with purchasing from them, the conditions, terms of sale and the price.

When Choosing a Vendor…

Make sure to evaluate the vendors and fashion brands that you choose. Evaluate them on a variety of factors; this can help to ensure that the best merchandise will be sold to your customers in your store. You need to buy quality products from reliable vendors that are committed to great customer service. You do not want to deal with a vendor who is rude and nasty over the phone; their products are probably not worth it. Check references and other marketing materials to find out about the vendor, or you can ask the sales rep how the vendor conducts business. Before “leaving paper” ask vendors if they sell to nearby retailers, if so you have a decision to make especially if you operate an indie store in a small town. Either buy different styles than the retailer “down the street” or hold off from ordering. Your merchandise mix is your distinction.

Here are some things that you should consider when selecting a vendor:

  • Location and Price
  • Stability
  • Shipping costs and Options
  • Dependable Delivery
  • Business Hours
  • Customer Service!
  • Terms of Sale
  • Returned Merchandise
  • Other ways of purchasing: website (online), catalog

There is no doubt that it will take time to find the right fashion brands for an exciting merchandise mix in your store. Don’t settle for a vendor because you feel that you cannot find anything else. That is not true. There are so many vendors out there that throughout your entire retailing business career, you will probably never even see half of them. You just have to keep your eyes open and you will, of course, pick up some new things as you go along. The overall goal is to be able to find the best merchandise to sell in your store, brands and products that will distinguish your business as a must-shop destination.

Tools for fashion retail buyers:

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