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How to Find the Best Wholesale Suppliers: A Comprehensive Guide

Last updated: September 08, 2023
This article has been written and researched by our expert Avada through a precise methodology. Learn more about our methodology

Sam

Author

Daniel

Researcher

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of finding the best wholesale suppliers for your online store.

Wholesale Suppliers

Key Takeaways

  1. AliExpress/Alibaba: Best for small to medium-sized businesses
  2. SaleHoo: Best for new entrepreneurs and small businesses
  3. Wholesale Central: Best for both retailers and wholesalers
  4. DHgate: Best for retailers seeking diverse product selection

Finding and Working With the Best Wholesale Suppliers

The success of your online store is inherently linked to the fulfillment process you choose. 

Before delving into the intricate world of wholesale suppliers, it’s crucial to determine your fulfillment strategy. This decision holds paramount importance as it guides your interaction with suppliers, ensuring seamless operations and customer satisfaction. 

In this section, we’ll explore how to align your fulfillment process with your wholesale supplier search and the significance of different fulfillment methods.

Understanding Fulfillment Compatibility

Imagine this scenario: 

You’ve identified a fantastic wholesale supplier with the potential to revolutionize your product offerings. Excitement builds as you’re ready to make the deal, but then a stumbling block appears. The supplier specializes in wholesale orders but doesn’t provide dropshipping services. Suddenly, your carefully crafted fulfillment strategy is at odds with your chosen supplier.

This highlights why determining your fulfillment process beforehand is paramount. It enables you to evaluate potential suppliers based on their ability to accommodate your chosen fulfillment method. While many suppliers are adept at fulfilling bulk orders directly to your company, finding those who also offer dropshipping can be a tad more challenging.

Defining Your Fulfillment Approach

Before you embark on your quest to discover the best wholesale suppliers, take a step back and clarify your fulfillment preferences. There are several approaches to consider:

  • Self-Fulfillment or Partial Self-Fulfillment

This method involves managing the entire order fulfillment process in-house. You’ll receive the bulk products from your wholesale supplier and then handle storage, packaging, and shipping to customers. It’s a hands-on approach that offers control over quality and customer experience.

  • Third-Party Fulfillment Company

In the realm of fulfillment, third-party companies have gained significant traction. These fulfillment partners take care of warehousing, packaging, and shipping on your behalf. The streamlined nature of this method allows you to focus on growing your business while experts handle the operational intricacies.

Aligning Fulfillment with Wholesale Suppliers

Once you’ve clearly defined your fulfillment approach, it’s time to search for wholesale suppliers that harmonize with your strategy. When reaching out to potential suppliers, communicate your fulfillment requirements upfront. This ensures that both parties are on the same page and can make informed decisions about whether to move forward with the partnership.

For instance, if you’ve chosen self-fulfillment or partial self-fulfillment, look for suppliers who can deliver products to your location in bulk. On the other hand, if you’re opting for third-party fulfillment, suppliers who offer dropshipping can complement your approach seamlessly.

The Best Platforms to Find Suppliers for Your Online Store

AliExpress/ Alibaba

When it comes to discovering the perfect wholesale suppliers for your online store, two names consistently rise to the top: AliExpress and Alibaba. While these platforms share the same parent company, they serve distinct purposes, catering to various aspects of the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) markets.

Alibaba: The Wholesale Powerhouse

Wholesale Suppliers

Alibaba stands as the B2B giant that seamlessly connects businesses with suppliers and manufacturers across Asia. This comprehensive platform is a haven for wholesale purchases, enabling businesses to procure products in bulk quantities. With its vast inventory, Alibaba provides an unparalleled opportunity to source an array of products, making it a valuable resource for your online store’s inventory.

AliExpress: The Consumer-Friendly Haven

Wholesale Suppliers

On the other end of the spectrum is AliExpress, designed for consumers on the hunt for affordable products. This B2C platform allows you to explore a wide range of products at pocket-friendly prices. If you’re looking to sample products before committing to larger wholesale purchases, AliExpress is a gateway to acquiring small quantities of goods.

Key Features of Alibaba and AliExpress

Both Alibaba and AliExpress boast features that have solidified their reputation as leading supplier platforms:

  • Trade Assurance and Authenticated Suppliers: These platforms offer the assurance of quality through their trade assurance and gold/assessed supplier programs. These designations indicate that suppliers adhere to strict quality standards, providing peace of mind in your transactions.
  • Secure Payment Service: One of the hallmarks of both platforms is their secure payment service, where your funds are held in escrow until you confirm your satisfaction with the products received.
  • Global Supplier Network: Whether you’re seeking suppliers in Asia or from other corners of the globe, these platforms provide access to a diverse range of suppliers.
  • User-Friendly Experience: The intuitive design of both Alibaba and AliExpress simplifies the process of finding and assessing supplier options.
  • Payment Diversity: These platforms offer a variety of payment options, ensuring flexibility in your transactions.

As with any tool, there are considerations to keep in mind:

  • Delivery Times: Given that many suppliers are based in Asia, delivery times might not always align with your immediate needs.
  • Language Barriers: Not all suppliers may have fluent English, potentially causing communication challenges when troubleshooting issues.

SaleHoo

Wholesale Suppliers

SaleHoo emerges as a global favorite in the realm of wholesale supplier directories, boasting a legacy spanning over 15 years. While SaleHoo might not be the largest name in the supplier directory arena, it undoubtedly packs a punch. With a repository of over 1.6 million products, it offers access to a wide range of offerings that can enhance your online store’s inventory and customer satisfaction.

Key Features of Salehoo: 

  • Authentic High-Quality Brands: Elevate your offerings with genuine, renowned brands that resonate with audiences, including those well-known in the USA.
  • Wide Range of Products: Access a diverse array of wholesale products, ensuring you can curate an appealing and varied product lineup.
  • Support for Beginners: SaleHoo offers an abundance of support resources tailored for newcomers, guiding you through various aspects of the e-commerce journey.
  • Low Minimum Orders and Swift Shipping: Benefit from low minimum order requirements and quick shipping, ensuring a smooth customer experience.
  • Training and Educational Tools: Equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge through SaleHoo’s training and educational resources.
  • User-Friendly Platform Experience: Enjoy an easy-to-navigate platform that simplifies supplier discovery and interaction.
  • Ample Support: SaleHoo goes above and beyond by providing extensive support resources, making it an excellent choice for newcomers. 

SaleHoo’s comprehensive approach to supplier verification and support makes it a smart choice for businesses seeking high-quality products without the hassle of vetting suppliers on their own. 

Whether you’re looking to enhance your product range, improve profit margins, or receive guidance on various aspects of e-commerce, SaleHoo has got your back. 

Wholesale Central

Wholesale Central isn’t just for one group—it’s designed to help both wholesalers and retailers. If you’re a retailer, you’ll love the fact that you can easily search through suppliers based on different categories. This way, you can find the right products to fill up your store’s shelves.

Wholesale Suppliers

Wholesale Central doesn’t stop at connecting you with suppliers. As a retailer on this platform, you’ll get extra deals that are like little bonuses. These deals can range from free shipping on your very first order to special discounts found in the “deals and steals” section of the website. And if you’re wondering which suppliers are doing a great job, Wholesale Central will highlight the best ones, so you know where to look.

Now, let’s be real—the way Wholesale Central works might seem a bit old-fashioned compared to other big players. Navigating the website and looking up products might feel a bit outdated at first. But if you’re willing to spend a bit of time figuring it out, you’ll find a bunch of useful features that make it all worthwhile.

Top Features of Wholesale Central

  • Categorized Supplier Organization: Seamlessly locate what you need by categorizing suppliers, enabling swift identification of products aligning with your store’s theme.
  • Product Locating Options: Wholesale Central equips you with multiple ways to find the products that resonate with your store’s vision.
  • Top Supplier Lists and Ratings: Access top supplier lists and ratings, helping you identify companies that have earned commendable reviews and commendable results.
  • Continuous Fresh Deals: Stay engaged with Wholesale Central’s ever-changing landscape of new and enticing deals.
  • Vast Product Selection: Immerse yourself in an exceptional variety of products, enriching your store’s offerings.

If you’re new to all this, take it slow with Wholesale Central. While it’s got great features, it might be a tad tricky to figure out at first. Just remember that every journey has its learning curve.

DHgate

Wholesale Suppliers

Among the giants of the online marketplace, DHgate shines as a hub of premium wholesale shopping. This expansive platform boasts a thriving community of thousands of suppliers, collectively offering millions of products across a wide range of categories.

Key Features of DHgate

  • Lower Order Options: Enjoy the flexibility of lower minimum orders compared to other platforms like Alibaba.com.
  • Tailored Business Tools: DHgate’s tools cater to various business models, ensuring a seamless experience.
  • Premium and Top Merchants: Choose between premium wholesale distributors and top merchants based on your business goals.
  • Brand Name Items: Discover a range of brand name products to diversify your offerings.
  • Dropshipping Services: Benefit from affordable dropshipping services that can streamline your operations.
  • Buyer Protection: DHgate prioritizes buyer protection, ensuring a secure transaction environment.
  • Abundant Choices with Low Minimum Orders: Many sellers on the platform provide low minimum order requirements, perfect for your dropshipping or retail online venture. 
  • Diverse Merchant Options and Brand Offerings: DHgate takes pride in offering a variety of merchant options to cater to different business models. 
  • Comprehensive Tools and Buyer Protection: DHgate ensures that its tools cater to various business models, adapting to your specific needs. 

While DHgate offers many advantages, it’s important to be aware of certain considerations. The platform does have a fair share of counterfeit items, which might dilute your brand’s authenticity. Engaging in such products could lead to legal issues if not handled with caution. It’s crucial to conduct thorough research and due diligence before incorporating new products into your lineup.

Key Notes When Working with Wholesale Suppliers

Contact the Suppliers First and Cut Out the Middle Men

When you’re trying to find suppliers, the goal is to talk to the people who can make important decisions. 

But things can get a bit tricky. 

In some industries, there are middlemen in the process. These are people in between you and the supplier. So, if you don’t start by talking to the supplier, you might end up dealing with extra layers.

Here’s the cool part: 

When you go directly to the supplier, you can save money. Those middlemen? They can make things more expensive. So, by talking straight to the supplier, you can cut costs and make more money for your store.

Now, suppliers aren’t always in competition with each other. Imagine you call a supplier and they say your business is too small for them right now. Don’t worry! You can ask them for suggestions. They might give you a list of other good suppliers who work well with smaller brands. In return, when your business grows, you can give them some business too.

Make Sure That First Contact is Productive

Getting in touch with supplier companies is important, but it’s not always straightforward. Sometimes, you end up talking to different people each time you call. However, having one or two people who remember you and your past conversations can be really helpful. It speeds things up and builds trust over time.

The first phone call is like a door opener. If you can’t connect with someone who can help, it might be worth looking elsewhere. While you might talk to different people as things progress, that first chat is a crucial step.

Making that first call count means getting useful info. Your opening line could be simple: 

“Hi, I’m starting a small online store for [ insert your product ]. Could you tell me about minimum orders and wholesale prices? Thank you!”

After your first chat, following up is important. Suppliers are busy, and if you don’t get a response, don’t be discouraged. A friendly follow-up email or another call shows your interest and commitment.

Ask for Samples

In the world of suppliers, not all offer samples, but many do. This is especially common for affordable products. Why? Well, you shouldn’t start selling something unless you’ve seen, touched, and tested it. Samples help you make sure you’re getting quality stuff.

Here’s a cool thing: 

Trying products helps you build trust with your customers. When you tell them you’ve tested something yourself, they’re more likely to trust you. It’s like sharing a secret that makes your bond stronger.

With so many suppliers out there, go for the ones who offer samples. It’s a practical way to avoid making mistakes. If a supplier doesn’t give samples, you might want to think twice before teaming up with them.

Asking for samples is easy. Just follow model sentences like, 

“I like how the looks online. Can I see a sample before we start selling it?” </em></p>

This simple request shows you’re serious and ready to do business.

If you’re planning to get a bunch of products from the same supplier, ask about getting a bunch of samples together. Sometimes they might ask for a bit of money, usually just for shipping. It’s a small investment to make sure you’re getting the right stuff.

Bargain for Better Prices

Let’s be clear: suppliers don’t usually drop prices just because you ask. Bargaining requires having something to offer in return. You can’t simply ask for a discount because you’re in the market.

So, how do you make bargaining work for you? Here are some tricks up your sleeve:

  • Opening New Markets: Suppliers value growth. If you can show them that your partnership will introduce their products to new audiences or markets, you’ve got a strong bargaining chip.
  • Reducing Risk: Suppliers appreciate certainty. If you can offer them a guarantee of consistent business, they might be willing to lower their prices.
  • Consolidated Orders: Ordering more can mean savings for them. If you’re willing to consolidate your orders, you might score a better deal.
  • Bundle Strategy: Instead of just buying the same products in bulk, try bundling different products together. This could be more attractive to suppliers.
  • Competitor Comparison: Mentioning prices from their competitors can be effective. It shows you’ve done your homework and gives them an incentive to match or beat the competition.
  • Incentives Beyond Price: Don’t just focus on price cuts. Ask about other incentives they can offer, like faster shipping or better payment terms.

Remember, bargaining is a dance, not a confrontation. Be respectful and open. Let them know you value their partnership and want to find a solution that benefits both sides.

Avoid Dropshipping Arrangements at the Start

You might have heard about dropshipping being all the rage in e-commerce, but it’s not the best choice for every startup. While dropshipping might seem tempting, it’s not a perfect fit for every new business. Here’s why we suggest you wait before diving into it: price and delivery Challenges

When you dropship, you often get products from far-away places. This means it takes a long time for products to reach your customers. Unfortunately, as a startup, you might not have much control over this, which can lead to unhappy customers.

On top of that, smaller stores don’t usually get great shipping deals. Big established stores can make dropshipping work better for them because they have more power to negotiate. They can add dropshipped products to their existing inventory without causing too many delays.

Now, don’t get us wrong—dropshipping can be a good idea later on. If you’re a bigger store with more influence, you can make it work in your favor. You can arrange deals that don’t hurt your profits and only offer certain products through dropshipping, so most things still arrive quickly.

So, if you’re just starting out, what should you do? Look for a reliable supplier who also does dropshipping. Begin by building your business and getting customers interested. Once you’re more established and have a bigger say in the market, you can start thinking about dropshipping.

Wholesale Suppliers: FAQs

A wholesale supplier is a company or individual that provides products in bulk to businesses at lower prices. These businesses, in turn, resell these products to consumers. Wholesale suppliers play a key role in the supply chain, offering goods at a reduced cost compared to retail prices.

In the supply chain, “wholesale” refers to the stage where products are sold in large quantities from manufacturers or distributors to retailers or other businesses. This process enables retailers to stock up on products at lower costs and then sell them to consumers at retail prices.

“Wholesale” and “retail” represent two different stages of the product distribution process. Wholesale involves selling products in bulk to businesses, often at discounted rates. Retail, on the other hand, refers to the sale of products to individual consumers at higher prices, typically in smaller quantities.

Wholesale buyers include businesses that purchase products in larger quantities for resale purposes. These buyers can be retailers, online stores, brick-and-mortar shops, or even manufacturers needing raw materials. Buying in wholesale allows these entities to take advantage of lower per-unit costs and increase their profit margins.

Wholesale Suppliers: Bottom Line

In the competitive world of e-commerce, selecting the right wholesale suppliers can make all the difference in the success of your online store. By utilizing platforms like AliExpress, SaleHoo, Wholesale Central, and DHgate, and by establishing direct and productive relationships with suppliers, you can ensure a steady flow of quality products that meet your customers’ needs. Remember, finding the best suppliers is an ongoing process, so be prepared to adapt and refine your approach as your business grows. Here’s to your online store’s prosperous journey!


Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. He is an expert on the Shopify e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Sam loves talking about e-commerce and he aims to help over a million online businesses grow and thrive.