Most manufacturers prefer selling to wholesale suppliers because they purchase large volumes of products. These suppliers sell products to retailers at low costs (sometimes more than 40% off retail prices) if they purchase the minimum required quantity. Finding suppliers matching minimum quantity, cost, and shipping requirements is crucial for retailers and requires some research.
Here are eight tips on how to find wholesale suppliers for retail businesses:
1. Research Business Directories in Your Local Library
Head to your nearest local library, and start your supplier search using the resources it has. Most libraries pay monthly subscription fees for online business and manufacturer directories that people would otherwise have to pay for in order to get. These directories contain profiles of many manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors in North America and are regularly updated so contact details are accurate and reliable.
One suggestion is to search for your products according to their North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. This code is assigned to products and are included in these professional directories. Sometimes manufacturers and suppliers list their products by the NAICS code, which can make it easier to find your product manufacturers and suppliers.
Before you visit, be sure to give your local library a call to ensure that the right person will be available to assist you when you get there. Some librarians are more experienced than others, and finding one who knows how to conduct business research could help tremendously.
2. Ask for Referrals From Local Business Networks
Ask for referrals from your local connections and business networks. The beauty of being part of a professional network, like a Chamber of Commerce, is being able to reach out directly to other business owners with a variety of expertise. Connect with these experts and ask if they can recommend specific suppliers; they will usually have a list of accredited suppliers that they would be more than willing to endorse.
Most cities and large towns have one or more local professional networks:
- Rotary clubs
- Chamber of commerce
- Manufacturer associations
- Business cooperatives
Remember that although your contact may not directly know a wholesaler, chances are they know someone who does. On the other hand, if you end up realizing that the suppliers to which your contact referred you are not the right fit, you can still ask them if they can recommend other suppliers who can meet your requirements.
3. Use the U.S. Customs Database
Any company (with a few exceptions) that imports into the U.S., and any company that exports to the U.S., leaves a paper trail that is accessible to anyone who would like to request the information. This includes sea shipping containers that carry goods from wholesale suppliers trading in and out of the country. Each one needs to clear customs before it is allowed to cross the border, and is carefully documented in the U.S. customs database during the process.
All of this information is freely available to the public and a supplier database tool allows you to quickly browse the shipments for every company that imports into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection website recommends the Journal of Commerce’s PIERS database and the American Association of Exporters and Importers in New York to get the latest information on exporter lists by commodity.
4. Check Online Directories for Local Wholesale Suppliers
There are many online directories where you can find a list of wholesalers for all types of products. Local wholesale suppliers, for one, are well documented, and information can be accessed easily through online directories. And while some might think that importing wholesale is more cost-efficient, it’s important to consider that buying from local wholesale suppliers means avoiding extra shipping costs, import duties, and risk of material defects.
Here are some of the most popular online database for local wholesale suppliers:
- Worldwide Brands: A directory of pre-verified dropship and light bulk wholesale suppliers in the United States.
- ThomasNet.com: A database of U.S. industrial and commercial suppliers instead of general consumer products.
- Wholesale Central: A database of prescreened wholesalers, importers, distributors, dropshippers, and manufacturers.
In addition to local wholesale suppliers, you should also consider checking industry association websites. Begin by visiting the American National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Member Association (NAW) to get a list (and links) of websites to a number of industry associations online.
5. Look Online for International Marketplaces
Retailers are very open to finding wholesale suppliers overseas because the low manufacturing cost and high competition make product prices very affordable. And although there are some considerable risks involved, especially for first-time entrepreneurs, finding the right wholesalers will allow you to competitively price your products.
Whether you want to search for wholesalers or go directly to manufacturers, Alibaba is the best platform to work with if you’re a beginner. As the largest business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for a wide variety of products, it vets all of its member suppliers. It also offers trade assurance and a logistic service for fast, reliable shipping by ocean and air. Visit Alibaba to create a free account and check out its low prices.
6. Attend Local & International Trade Shows
Attending trade shows is another way to discover potential wholesale suppliers. Trade shows are exhibitions held by different industries where wholesalers and manufacturers display their latest products. It gives retailers an opportunity to ask their questions directly with manufacturers and wholesale distributors and build a list of wholesaler options to choose from. Trade show participants usually provide special deals during the event, which are great especially for beginner retailers.
You can find schedules of local trade shows from the following websites:
Look for business-to-business or industry-only trade shows that you can search by industry, date, city, state, or country and event name. There’s a trade show for every retail industry, and they usually occur every year.
On the other hand, if you are seriously considering importing products to sell in retail, you might want to consider attending overseas trade shows. This means being able to communicate in person and see and touch all of the merchandise you’re interested in, instead of having to wait weeks for samples.
If you use Alibaba for sourcing products, consider attending major trade shows such as:
- Canton Fair: Happens twice a year with over 25,000 exhibitors and over 190,000 overseas buyer visitors.
- Global Sources Expo: More focused on electronic products and consists of over 9,000 trade booths and more than 90,000 buyers.
- Expo Database: A website that consolidates all international trade show events and provides a search database on participating exhibitors.
Attending these trade shows will help give retailers an opportunity to close deals faster. These events are well organized so you can plan ahead for your travel.
7. Conduct a Google & Social Network Search
You might have noticed that most supplier websites are rarely updated. As a result, their websites are not as informative and organized as buyers would like them to be. And because they overlook Google’s algorithm, these websites are not search engine optimized. This means that you’ll need to explore beyond the first page of Google’s search results. You’ll also want to try a variety of search terms like wholesale, wholesaler, and distributor to ensure you find as many potential wholesale suppliers as possible.
You should also look into social networks for wholesalers. LinkedIn, for one, is a great platform for connecting with professionals; a quick search on the site using the right keywords will produce a list of wholesale distributors you may be interested in using. Facebook also offers a huge networking platform for business-to-business (B2B) companies, including manufacturers and wholesalers. You should also join LinkedIn and Facebook groups along with other online communities for retail business owners.
8. Subscribe to Your Industry’s Trade Publications
Get every magazine or newsletter that targets retailers in your industry. Keep in mind that every advertiser in these types of publications will most likely be a product manufacturer or distributor. You should find a few dozen options from the ads in the back of the magazine. Unlike supplier websites, trade publications usually contain ads with up-to-date contact details, and are expecting retailers like you to give them a call.
You can also subscribe to all of the online newsletters, blogs, and other sources of online information. This will ensure that you keep up with industry news, updates, and important things you need to know about your industry and those that are closely related to it. Start a quick Google search by typing “magazines for (your business type or profession)” into your search box.
Knowing how to find wholesale distributors is the first step toward a successful retail business. It will take considerable time to learn where your business fits in your industry supply chain, but the lessons along the way will help you navigate the retail industry efficiently.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How do I find wholesale suppliers?” you may have tips that aren’t on our list. Share them with us in the comments.