How to Find a Wholesaler for Your Online Business - dummies

How to Find a Wholesaler for Your Online Business

By Greg Holden

If good wholesale suppliers were easy to find, everyone would use them. But finding good suppliers for your online business takes time and effort. One problem is that wholesalers don’t advertise themselves in the places you’re used to looking. Another is that they tend to want to deal with traditional, brick-and-mortar businesses. Some wholesalers look down on eBay or e-commerce sellers.

What can you do to overcome these challenges? Other sellers have done the following:

  • Rented a booth in an antiques mall and used that as a business address so that wholesalers could ship merchandise there

  • Listed themselves in the phone book for added credibility

  • Had a tax ID and a business license ready in case these items are requested

To find wholesalers, look around. The web is the logical place to start. The Chinese wholesale marketplace Alibaba is an increasingly popular venue for sellers seeking merchandise. Another possibility is on eBay through the sales category Wholesale Lots. Another excellent resource is Worldwide Brands, which maintains a database of wholesale suppliers organized by the type of merchandise they provide.

But ask around, too. Often, you find wholesalers by word of mouth. Sometimes, you find products you like and that you’re reasonably sure you can sell online. Going directly to the manufacturers is worth a try, but chances are the manufacturer won’t sell directly to you.

Producers are used to selling to wholesalers and not directly to eBay sellers. By selling to you at wholesale, they undercut their wholesalers as well as the retailers who sell their products to the public. You’re much better off approaching the wholesalers.

Lots of online businesses advertise themselves as wholesale sellers. Many say they drop-ship their merchandise — in other words, they ship what’s purchased directly from their wholesale facility so they never actually have to handle the merchandise and may never see it.

Sound too good to be true? In many cases it is, and you should always exercise a healthy dose of caution when you’re looking for wholesale suppliers. eBay sellers usually find such suppliers only by word of mouth: Rather than answer an ad or visit a website, they ask someone who knows someone who…you get the idea.

If you aren’t in the business of selling goods or services that you manufacture yourself, find a steady stream of merchandise that you can sell online. Your goal is to find a wholesaler who can supply you with good-quality items at rock-bottom prices. You can then mark up the prices and make a profit while keeping the prices low enough to make them attractive.

Generally, the best wholesale items are small objects that can be packed and shipped inexpensively. On eBay, things like figurines, ornaments, stationery, and other small gift items are commonly sold by PowerSellers along with the occasional antiques and collectibles. Here are a few rules for finding items to resell:

  • Try them out yourself. Purchase a few items yourself to start with or ask the wholesaler for samples. (Resist any attempts by the wholesaler to sell you, say, 10,000 items at a supposedly dirt-cheap price right off the bat.) Take a few of the items for a test drive. It’s easier to convince others to buy what you like yourself.

  • Try to sell many small, low-priced items rather than a few large ones. Rather than computers or printers, consider selling computer memory chips or printer ink cartridges, for example.

  • Ask for references. Talk to businesspeople who have already worked with the supplier. Ask how reliable the supplier is and whether the prices are prone to fluctuate.

When looking for merchandise to sell, try to build on your own hobbies and interests. If you collect model cars, try to develop a sideline selling parts, paints, and components online. You’ll find the process more enjoyable when you deal in products you love and know well.