If it’s your first time selling products, you may currently be tackling the fun but not so small question of: how do I buy wholesale?
We say fun because (and we may be biassed here…) the quality and variety of wholesale suppliers, and the variety of platforms you can buy wholesale stock from, are surely better now than ever before. In just a few clicks, hand-stitched baby clothes could be on their way to you from the latest trending Danish brand. Or a sole trader could be starting work on your order of ombre candles in the next town over. Global and local, ethical and experimental; it’s all out there, ready for you.
In this guide, we’ll not only walk you through the logistics of buying wholesale (spoiler: super easy now), we’ll also give you some tips on how to choose the right wholesale suppliers. How to know if the products you like are actually going to be profitable.
CREOATE started life as a retail store and we — like many other independent retail stores — learnt some valuable lessons in those first few months. Read on for our key advice.
What is wholesale?
But first, let’s take a moment to ask the important question — what even is wholesale?
Wholesale has two similar but distinct meanings. It can mean to buy goods (often food) in bulk for your own use at places like Costco, or it can refer to sourcing stock to sell on to consumers, either in a physical brick and mortar store, online, or a combination of the two.
In this guide, we’re going to be talking through the second of these options; tips and methods for sourcing stock for your business from brilliant wholesale providers.
📚 Find out more: Wholesale 101: what is wholesale?
Where can you shop wholesale?
Now the definitions are out the way, let’s get straight into the good stuff: how to buy wholesale? Or more specifically, from where?
CREOATE is a wholesale marketplace designed to help independent businesses thrive. It’s a place for you to buy stock for your store in manageable quantities, directly from independent makers and brands. Think of it like buying a candle for yourself from Etsy, but instead you’re buying, say, 30 candles at a wholesale price to sell on in your store.
👋 Create an account to start shopping on CREOATE. Signing up is quick, easy and free.
2. Other wholesale marketplaces
Of course, CREOATE isn’t the only wholesale marketplace out there! Each one works slightly differently, and has its own USP. Here are a few other notable platforms:
- Handshake — A wholesale marketplace by Shopify, where every brand is ‘handpicked’. Currently only available in the US
- Alibaba — One of the original wholesale marketplaces, focusing on high volume and low cost
- JOOR — Specialises in linking up luxury fashion brands with large retailers
- Tundra — A US-based marketplace with a huge range of products (think car parts to wedding dresses!)
📚 Find out more: Top 8 wholesale marketplaces: which is right for you?
3. Trade shows
Trade shows take place throughout the year in major cities across the world. Over a period of a few days, thousands of brands come together to exhibit their brand and products. Retailers and buyers attend and browse the different brands on offer, placing stock orders at the show, or using the time to make connections which might result in orders later down the line.
Trade shows give you the chance to handle products and meet the brand founder in person, which for some people makes them an invaluable part of buying. But given the time commitment and location, they aren’t always an accessible option for smaller independent retailers.
📚 Find out more: Everything you need to know about attending trade shows
Wholesale marketplaces and trade shows are two very popular options when it comes to buying wholesale. But there are other creative ways to link up with wholesale brands. Check out our post on how to source products for more ideas.
📚 Find out more: How & where to source products
What should you look for in a good wholesale partner?
All in all, it’s easier than ever before to find wholesale products for your store. But besides making sure the products feel like a good fit for your store and customers, what should you be looking for in a good wholesale supplier?
1. Reliability & good communication
As with any business partnership, communication and reliability are key. You want a wholesale partner who responds to your queries quickly, and sets accurate expectations when it comes to order processing and shipping time.
Look out for indicators like this ‘last active’ badge to find more engaged wholesale partners. Besides this, you can check reviews, and take recommendations from other businesses.
In our experience, however, most wholesalers will go out of their way to exceed expectations for their retail partners.
2. Access to images & product details
Photographing your new stock takes time and resources. If you’re able to access existing images (and product info), this makes uploading products to your website a lot easier.
Whenever you buy a wholesale product through CREOATE, you’ll automatically get access to all the product images and information, and can download this directly from your dashboard.
📚 Find out more: Tips from a photographer: making the most of your product shoot
3. A lead time that works for you
While traditional wholesale models can require ordering months in advance, brands selling through wholesale marketplaces generally have a much quicker turnaround. But if you need your stock to arrive by a certain date, it’s important to pay close attention to a wholesaler’s lead time.
Keep in mind also that what ‘lead time’ actually means may vary from platform to platform. On CREOATE, lead time is the time it takes a brand to process your order, so the time from the order being placed to it being fulfilled. Shipping time isn’t included, but shipping will likely be fastest from brands in your own country, so make use of the country filter to narrow this down even further.
And if you’re ever in doubt, just shoot the brand a quick message to confirm timings.
💡 Top tip: In a hurry? Look out for our ‘Super Shipper badge’, which is awarded to our most reliable and speediest shipping brands.
4. Profitable margins
Okay so you like the brand, and you like the product — but will they make you enough money?
Retail store owners often tell us that the importance of margins is something they hugely underestimated when opening their store. A product’s margin is the difference between the wholesale price and the retail price.
But as you also have to account for overheads and other costs of your business, a ‘good margin’ may be more than you think — particularly if you have a physical store, which generally incurs more costs.
Here’s a rough guideline of what you should be looking for when it comes to your product margins, depending on the type of product:
Suggested margin for retailers (minimum)
Beauty and wellbeing
35 - 40%
Homeware and home decor
45 - 50%
Kids clothing and items
50 - 60%
45 - 55%
Fashion and accessories
45 - 55%
30 - 40%
Food and drink
30 - 40%
📚 Find out more: How to plan your wholesale pricing strategy
5. Good sell through rate
Your sell through rate is how much of your inventory you sell within a month (or other predetermined time frame) versus what you receive from suppliers. A good sell through rate for a retailer is considered to be around 80%, with most sitting within an average of 40-80%.
Get to know your average sell through rate, and use this when evaluating the success of brands you start stocking. If the sell through rate is lower than your average, it may be time to tweak your product selection, or reevaluate whether you want to continue stocking this brand.
Do you need a business licence to buy wholesale?
This depends on where you’re buying from, but broadly speaking there is no legal restriction on who can buy wholesale. Any restrictions that exist are put in place by the platform you’re buying from, or the contract you have with a supplier.
CREOATE, for example, sells wholesale for resale. Only registered businesses can buy through our platform, and this is something we check when you create an account. But Alibaba, for example, doesn't have such stringent rules in place; anyone can buy wholesale from their site.
If you want to sell products, there are licences and permits to be gathered. Be sure to check up on any business licences and rules according to where you’re based, and how you’ll be selling.
How important are trends?
When it comes to buying wholesale products for resale, we’ve covered the ‘who’ and the ‘where’. Now it’s time to drill down into the ‘what’, and in what volumes
More specifically, we’re going to be looking at trends: how to spot them, and when to avoid them altogether.
Buying for holidays
Christmas and Black Friday combine to make November and December by far the biggest spending months in the retail calendar. On CREOATE, we normally start noticing Christmas-related shopping habits on our site around August as retailers start to get stocked up for their busiest season.
Outside of the Christmas holidays, ‘back to school’, Mother’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day are all spending occasions that are worth factoring into your retail calendar.
If you’re stocking up ahead of a holiday, be sure to know the returns policy on your wholesale stock, if one exists. Some wholesale marketplaces, for example, exclude seasonal products from their returns policy, making overstocks a bigger risk. Here at CREOATE, you’re free to return seasonal stock within 60 days.
Finding what’s popular
Starting with a blank shelf — proverbial or literal — feels daunting. And while it’s always most important to stay true to your brand, values and customers, there’s no harm in keeping up with what’s trending — even if that’s just so you can then decide to go against the grain.
“It’s fine to follow trends, that’s where sales are, and if you get in early, even better. But if there’s a trend that is established, you shouldn’t just do it for the sake of it, or you risk melting into the background. Even better, if you have a good idea but it’s off-trend, go for it, not everyone wants to buy what everyone else has.” — Jack, Paper Plane
📚 Find out more: Key insights from our trends in retail discussion
Here are some ways to find trending products:
1. Subscribe to CREOATE emails
From ‘Rising stars’, to last month’s bestsellers and this week’s ‘New in’, our email subscribers get an exclusive look under the CREOATE hood to see what other indie retailers are buying in their droves.
👋 Not got a CREOATE account yet? Sign up here to stay in the know.
2. Shop product ‘bundles’
Like the look of a certain brand, but not sure which products to pick? ‘Bundles’ are a selection of bestselling products from each brand that work well as a group, and are put together by the brand itself.
3. Exploding topics & Google trends
We love both Exploding Topics and Google Trends as tools for discovering emerging trending products by search volume.
4. Market & competitor research
They say if you want to be a writer, you should read everything you can. The same principle applies to selling products — you better be prepared to put some serious time into shopping, and understanding your niche.
Go into shops, or online, and see what catches your eye, and the eyes of those around you. What makes a great display? What are people buying? Observe and (where possible) engage with those shopping around you to help understand how to build out a great assortment.
When it comes to buying wholesale, there really are more options available than ever before.
CREOATE is a wholesale marketplace that takes the risk out of choosing products, with free 60-day returns on anything that doesn’t sell. But when it comes to picking a bestseller, there’s lots of easy due diligence that you can do, too -- we've covered all of our best advice above.
👋 Create an account to start shopping on CREOATE today. Signing up is quick, easy and free. Join over 100,000 retailers taking the hassle out of wholesale.
Browse Popular Categories at CREOATE: Wholesale Jewelry | Wholesale Gifts | Wholesale Stationery | Wholesale Beauty Products | Wholesale Mugs | Wholesale Homeware | Wholesale Pet Supplies | Wholesale Gourmet Food | Wholesale Garden & Outdoor | Wholesale Baby & Kids Products