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Your Startup Guide For Selling Wholesale To Other Retailers

your-startup-guide-for-selling-wholesale-to-other-retailers

Imagine you could focus more of your efforts on product design and innovation, beautifying your brand, or streamlining operations instead of finding customers and worrying about sales.

For some entrepreneurs, these things come more naturally than marketing, which can make sustaining and growing a business a struggle. Luckily, there’s a way you can pass on some of (or even all of) that responsibility to other businesses, by creating a wholesale channel.

This guide will walk you through how to tap into the $10 trillion wholesale industry, with tips for finding wholesale products and setting up your store today.

Want to sell wholesale? Join Handshake and sell to thousands of retailers for free

Handshake is the meeting point of wholesale. New brands and retailers are joining all the time, and we hope you’re next. Between our New Arrivals catalog and weekly email featuring new products, we make sure that both curators and creators have the selection and exposure they need to grow.

If you want to take a closer look at what Handshake has to offer, stop by our marketplace today.

SIGN UP FOR HANDSHAKE FREE

How does wholesale work?

Wholesaling is the act of selling your products in bulk to another retailer, usually at a discount, who then sells the product to their customers at a higher price. 

It’s important to note that creating a wholesale channel for your business still allows you to sell your product to the end consumer.

how wholesale works

As a wholesaler, you can sell to both consumers and other retailers. You don’t have to choose one or the other.

The first examples of wholesale businesses that might come to mind are probably large brick-and-mortar department stores, like Walmart or Target. Wholesale is, after all, often thought of as an old fashioned business model that’s being disrupted by newer direct-to-consumer ecommerce businesses.

One of the myths about wholesale ecommerce is that you need loads of cash to get started. While you do need some startup money to break into the wholesale market, there are ways to scale your growth. For example, reorganize your existing space to make room for your bulk products rather than renting a new storage space right off the bat. And don’t forget to negotiate with your suppliers—they tend to be more flexible when you’re making a large order.

However, in more recent years, wholesale has experienced a revolution of its own due to online selling sites like Amazon, Wish, and Wayfair. While ecommerce enables direct-to-consumer brands to thrive by lowering the barrier to setting up shop, wholesale still offers consumers a convenient shopping experience where they can find everything they need in one place.

Is selling wholesale worth it?

This newer version of wholesaling, which often takes place in online marketplaces or through smaller boutiques, has advantages that are attracting direct-to-consumer brands too. Here are three reasons why opening up a wholesale channel might benefit your business.

Increase sales without increasing marketing spend 

As a direct-to-consumer brand, a large amount of your budget needs to be allocated to marketing in order to grow. For every new customer acquired, there is often a cost, after all.

The most common myth is that B2B customers won’t shop online, so there’s limited growth potential. In truth, B2B ecommerce is experiencing massive growth and drives much higher revenue than B2C ecommerce.

By selling your products wholesale, you can let another business shoulder the cost of customer acquisition and reinvest your time and money in other areas of your business.

Leverage other brands’ audiences to sell your product 

Just as acquiring new customers costs money, building a loyal audience of fans and customers is not an easy feat. By creating a wholesale partnership with an established brand that has already made a name for itself within your niche, you can leverage the company’s goodwill to get your product into the hands of consumers.

Enter new markets with less risk

Expanding your business to a new country or territory comes with a series of associated costs, like warehousing and logistics. You might also have to start from scratch marketing to a population that hasn’t heard of you. Finding another retailer with an existing presence and supply chain in a new market can help reduce the risk of international expansion by cutting your setup costs. 

Ultimately, a wholesale business model benefits both the retailer and the wholesaler by creating efficiencies. The retailer gets a new, often complementary, product to sell, without investing in research and development, and the wholesaler saves money on marketing by gaining direct access to an existing customer base.

Coming up with a wholesale pricing strategy

Pricing strategies are one of, if not the most, crucial components to creating a successful wholesale business. When selling direct to customers on your own website or in your own retail store, you get to keep whatever profit margin you set for yourself, which often can be north of 50%.

With wholesale, businesses typically give retailers a 50% discount off their regular retail price. The steep discount is to allow retailers to wholesale your product to their customers, while still retaining some profit margin as well. Here is an example of a healthy pricing strategy, where a wholesale business would be retaining 50% profit margin on wholesale orders and 75% profit margin on direct-to-consumer sales. 

Product SKU Product Cost Wholesale Price MSRP
SLK101B $20 $40 $80
SPL103B $12 $24 $48
SPL107B $6 $12 $24
A profitable pricing strategy for wholesale requires a business to be able to maintain a profit margin while offering retailers 50% off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

A profitable pricing strategy for wholesale requires a business to be able to maintain a profit margin while offering retailers 50% off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

Therefore, in order to create a successful wholesale business, you’ll need to be able to offer a large discount off of your retail price to those willing to wholesale your product. This can sometimes pose various risks for small businesses, including not being profitable. 

Luckily, there are ways you can price your product for wholesale to mitigate the risk of not being profitable. One way is to offer a discount based on purchase order quantities. This way, retailers will be encouraged to place larger orders to get a better margin upon resale of your product. Many wholesale businesses even set minimum order quantities (MOQs) that retailers must buy in order to carry their product. 

When you decide to wholesale your product and have it carried by multiple different stores, you can sometimes run into issues with competing retailers undercutting each other when it comes to price. This is why creating an MSRP is an important element of your wholesale pricing strategy.

An MSRP is often part of a contract that a business will give to a retailer that wants to sell their products. It guarantees that the retailer will stick to the suggested retail price so that the product pricing will be the same wherever it is found in stores or online. Usually, the MSRP is found alongside individual products on a wholesale storefront, or on a sales sheet or product brochure sent to prospective retailers who wish to carry your product. 

One thing to consider when setting up an MSRP agreement is whether or not you want to allow discounting around holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday or specify certain times you might want to discount the product on your own website to customers. 

As the wholesale supplier, you get to set the rules that your retailers have to comply with, but maintaining a fair balance with pricing is essential to making your retailers successful. If your retailers are able to make a profit selling your product, they will continue to come back and place larger orders.

How to set up a wholesale channel

When it comes to how to sell online, you first need to consider whether you want to create a pure wholesale business or offer a wholesale option in addition to selling directly to consumers through your own store.

There are multiple ways you can approach this and what you choose will ultimately depend on your context.

1. Password protect your wholesale store 

If you are considering only selling your product wholesale through other retailers, you will need to create a password protected online store so that only your retailers can place orders at your discounted price. 

The easiest way to lock your online store is through your ecommerce platform. If you’re a Shopify store owner, you can use the password protection feature available in the Shopify admin.

password page in Shopify

Your Shopify store can be password protected under Online Store > Preferences. By creating a password-protected online store, you can set up all your products with a discounted price for your retailers to purchase. 

If you are running a larger wholesale business and are worried about your password getting out to unapproved retailers, you might want to look into a more sophisticated password protection app, like Locksmith.

locksmith

The Locksmith app allows you to lock individual products, collections, and variants.

Locksmith has many customizable features, which gives you advanced control over who can see your store and what products they can purchase. Instead of creating one generic password, customers can create accounts and set up their own unique password.

You can also grant customers access to products by applying tags to their profile, sharing a secret link with them, personalizing your inventory based on what country they’re browsing from, and many other conditions.

locksmith 2

With Locksmith you can choose which customers have access to what parts of your store and how you share that access with them. 

2. Use Shopify to open a separate wholesale storefront

For businesses that already have a direct-to-consumer store but want to create a wholesale channel for retail businesses to buy from, there are several options available. The simplest one would be setting up a second Shopify store with a different URL and using one of the two options listed above to password protect it. 

If your company is doing a high volume of sales, you can consider upgrading to Shopify Plus and take advantage of its wholesale channel feature. On Shopify Plus, you can create a wholesale channel within your existing store that is password protected, like The James Brand’s wholesale storefront.

jamesbrand

The wholesale channel creates a wholesale storefront using your existing products, so there is very little additional work involved in setting up this channel. You can also customize pricing by customer groups, using percentages off or volume-based discounts. Best of all, your sales reports are all separated from your direct-to-consumer sales within Shopify reports. 

3. Use a wholesale app to create a wholesale channel 

Another way to create a wholesale channel on your Shopify store is with the assistance of a Shopify app like Wholesale Club. With Wholesale Club, businesses can break up their retail customers into “tiers,” which are assigned specific discounts off of regular retail prices. 

wholesale club

Discount tiers on the Wholesale Club app can be assigned using customer tags.

wholesale discounts

The app also has a built-in marketing feature that can be used to incentivize customers to buy more in order to get a larger discount. 

Volume-based discounts can be given to wholesale customers based on cart total and item quantity.

With Wholesale Club, only customers who have approved retailer accounts and are logged in will get access to wholesale pricing. This lets you create a secure wholesale channel in addition to your direct-to-consumer one, without needing to set up a separate store or product catalog.

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Accepting payments for wholesale orders 

One way wholesale differs from direct-to-consumer transactions is in the payment terms usually expected from your retail partners. Unlike a regular sale, if a retailer is buying a large quantity of your product, they may ask for payment terms that are often referred to as “Net X”: an agreement that the net payment is expected in full within a set number of days (e.g., Net 30 for payment within 30 days).

If a retailer is asking for these preferred payment terms, it means they want to be able to pay you, as a vendor, within a certain number of days of receiving their order. Shipping a large order to a retailer before they’ve paid you can be risky, especially for small businesses. This is why it is often suggested that you ask for references and perform some due diligence before agreeing to these terms.

Limiting payment options to either immediate or invoice-only can hurt sales. Offering a finance option (where you outsource the risk) is an effective way of increasing conversions and, perhaps more importantly, raising average order sizes and repeat business. But offering a variety of options is a must.

How to add net payment terms to your store

Both of the Shopify apps Wholesaler and Wholesale Club allow you to offer customers net payment terms. Customers can be tagged according to the payment terms agreed upon with them, and when they shop on your store they can place unpaid orders.

net payment terms

With Wholesaler, tagging customer profiles will give them net payment privileges.

How to collect payment from wholesale customers 

When it comes to actually collecting a later payment, there are a few options for businesses managing their wholesale channel online. One is to record wholesale orders as draft orders on your Shopify store, which lets you email invoices to your customers through Shopify for them to pay by credit card at a later date. With draft orders, you can also record a payment via cheque by marking an order as paid once the payment is received.

invoicing for wholesale

Under Drafts, store owners can create orders and send customers invoices to be paid at a later date.

Afterpay is another potential solution to taking late payments. The app is usually used for direct-to-consumer sales, letting stores offer customers the ability to pay for their purchases in installments.

afterpay

Allowing customers to use Afterpay at checkout lets them pay for their order later, in installments.

This same feature could be used for a wholesale channel or store, letting you collect payment information from your retail customers and only charge them later in installments. An app like Afterpay would let you automate the payment collection process, without the need to track and check up manually on unpaid invoices.

How to sell wholesale products

Now that you have your wholesale pricing strategy figured out and a wholesale channel setup in your store, it’s time to search for prospective wholesale customers. But where do you find these retailers, and how can you increase sales? 

Join a wholesale marketplace 

Retailers today can find and order products from wholesale marketplaces. Aside from selling wholesale to retailers in your own ecommerce store, you can also join a popular marketplace to build brand awareness and reach new buyers. 

Do research on prospective marketplaces to make sure they are the right fit. You want the marketplace to integrate with your store easily. 

For example, Handshake is a great marketplace for Shopify store owners who want to sell wholesale. 

handshake

Handshake connects retailers and suppliers to create lasting, scalable relationships in wholesale. It works inside the Shopify ecosystem, so your inventory management, billing, and wholesale orders are in your admin dashboard. It’s also free to join Handshake, no matter how many wholesale sales you make. Shopify will never take a commission. 

Want to sell wholesale? Join Handshake and sell to thousands of retailers for free

Handshake is the meeting point of wholesale. New brands and retailers are joining all the time, and we hope you’re next. Between our New Arrivals catalog and weekly email featuring new products, we make sure that both curators and creators have the selection and exposure they need to grow.

If you want to take a closer look at what Handshake has to offer, stop by our marketplace today.

SIGN UP FOR HANDSHAKE FREE

Use your direct-to-consumer website 

Oftentimes, a retail customer will actually find you first. If you’ve had success with direct-to-consumer advertising, you may have already received messages from distributors who want to carry your product online or in their physical stores. 

When you are advertising to consumers online, you are also reaching other business owners who might be interested in carrying your product. This is why it is important to keep a link in your website footer for wholesale inquiries. This provides an easy way for anyone browsing your website to contact you about potential opportunities. 

rockwell-razors

Rockwell Razors keeps an easily accessible link to a wholesale inquiry form on its website footer.

Attend trade shows 

Trade shows are one of the most traditional places a wholesale business will go to make connections and find retail partners. There are specialty trade shows for nearly every category of retail, from baby apparel and athletic leisure clothing to furniture and home decor. There are even trade show directories that list top trade shows according to categories.

Don’t get trapped in the ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality. You have to go out there and hustle: on the phone, at trade shows, and in person at stores. Simply being live and visible in the digital space isn’t enough unless you push your brand in the real world.

Trade shows, however, can be expensive. They often require traveling to the location where the show is taking place and a substantial fee for a booth if you want to exhibit there. Although trade shows are a place to make great connections and find new customers, it is worth attending them first and walking the floor to make sure it’s worthwhile before deciding to exhibit.

Reach out to complementary brands 

One added benefit of a wholesale channel is that unlike direct to consumer, you don’t always need a large volume of customers in order to grow. If you have a handful of high-quality retailers who are successful at selling your product, they can come back and continue to place larger orders again and again. 

To find these select partners, it’s worth reaching out personally over social media, phone, or email to a company that you believe would be a great fit. A business that sells complementary products would be a good place to start.

One example of a wholesale collaboration between two complementary brands can be found with Pehr and Stokke:

wholesale collab example

Pehr and Stokke formed a partnership and now sell each other’s complementary products on their respective websites.

Stokke creates and sells a line of cribs and baby furniture for design-minded families. Pehr created a line of 100% organic sheets that are now sold on the Stokke website, while Pehr carries Stokke’s cribs on its site.

Some of the best wholesale partnerships are made through personal contact and establishing trust and rapport in real life. So if you see a brand you admire, it’s worth reaching out to them if you believe working together would be beneficial to both sides. 

Use incentives to motivate buyers

Incentives work for wholesale buyers just like everyday consumers do. Some retailers selling wholesale will offer discounts to buyers based on the amount of products they buy. A common offer is a percentage off for a customer’s first order. Other incentives could include offering:

  • Low order minimum requirements
  • Free shipping based on order amount and delivery location
  • Various payment options
  • Bundle deals
  • Free samples and testers

You could also offer dropshipping services as a wholesaler. So when a company sells a product on its website, you deliver it to the end customer versus a wholesale distributor, which could be cheaper for the company.

Start selling wholesale today

The rise of ecommerce has allowed direct-to-consumer brands to launch faster and grow digitally. As a result, many had written off selling wholesale items as a fading retail trend. However, a new wave of wholesale startups are actually thriving in the era of ecommerce by rethinking the way wholesale works. 

Both direct-to-consumer brands looking for new sales channels and entrepreneurs who want to save on marketing spend are opening up wholesale businesses. With the right pricing strategy and a little know-how, you can start opening your business up to new revenue-generating partnerships and see your product flourish amongst other complementary brands.


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Wholesale business FAQ

What should I sell online in wholesale?

There are a number of wholesale products you can sell. The best product depends on who you want to market to and the suppliers you have or can build relationships with. Some examples of common wholesale products include travel accessories, smart watches, skin care products, health and wellness products, lamps and lighting, and hobbies and craft kits.

Can I sell wholesale on Shopify?

Yes, you can use Shopify to sell your products to other businesses. You can either set up a password-protected storefront for your customers or add volume discounts for specific products you want to sell on a wholesale basis. Learn more about wholesale here.

What is the best wholesale business to start?

The best wholesale business to start depends on the products you want to sell. Popular wholesale businesses include jewelry, stationary, children’s toys, textile, health and wellness products, and furniture.

How much should I wholesale my product for?

Aim for a wholesale profit margin of at least 50%. As a starting point, double your cost of goods sold (COGS). Compare these numbers to those of your competitors to see if you can expect customers to buy at that price point.

This originally appeared on Shopify and is made available here to cast a wider net of discovery.