The Best Way To Find Vendors For Your Online Store

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The number one question that I receive from readers who want to open their own online store is how to go about finding vendors and suppliers. Do I purchase wholesale? Should I drop ship or should I contact the manufacturer directly?

The Best Way to Find Vendors for Your Online Store (1)

When my wife and I first started our online store, we faced these exact same questions. But having done a fair amount of research on each of the above options, I’d like to talk about our experiences and our take on each of these ways to stock merchandise for your online business.

While our experiences are primarily related to wedding linens, what we are about to tell you should apply to almost anything that you choose to sell in your online store.

Drop Shipping

Most people fall into the trap of getting excited about drop shipping when they first open their online store. Drop shipping seems appealing for several reasons.

For one thing, you don’t have to stock any items. Whenever an order comes in, you simply place the exact same order to the drop shipper and collect the profit based on the difference in selling price.

There is no inventory, no fulfillment obligations and all you have to do is take orders. Sound like a dream come true?

What most people don’t realize is that the profit margins often suck and you have to provide customer support for problems that are completely out of your hands.

What if the drop shipper screws up the order or ships the product late? What if the drop shipper routinely ships faulty items? Guess what? You have to deal with all of these issues even though they aren’t your fault.

Couple that with the fact that the profit margins are extremely small (between 10-25%) and you have a situation where you are sacrificing your mental health over things beyond your control for very little money.

Even if you manage to find a reliable drop shipper, customer issues will still pop up and it will be much harder to deal with them when you don’t have control over your products.

In a nutshell, you are staking the reputation of your business on a 3rd party that may not have your interests in mind.

Honestly, I’d rather simply become an affiliate rather than drop ship. This way, you take your cut and you’re done. No hassles.

That being said, drop shipping is an excellent way to fill in gaps in your overall product line.

While I would never base my online store solely on drop shipping, the best place to find good dropshippers is via this service called Worldwide Brands.

Worldwide Brands pre-vets dropshippers for you so you know that you aren’t getting scammed.

Buying Wholesale Domestically

I hear the word ‘wholesale’ a lot. Many people contact us about wholesale pricing and where to find wholesale products. The term ‘wholesale’ seems to imply that the price that you are going to get is going to be the lowest that you can find.

Well guess what? Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was shopping for vendors for our online store, all of the “wholesale” dealers in the US were offering extremely high prices.

Sure, they were cheaper than MSRP, but the prices were sufficiently high that the profit margins would have been on the low end for the products we wanted to sell.

To make things worse, there were already a large number of competitors carrying the exact same items in their stores at rock bottom prices. So why buy from a wholesale vendor in the US?

Because practically nothing is made in the United States anymore, wholesalers take care of all the hassle of importing and warehousing the goods from the manufacturer.

You don’t have to travel to a foreign place. You don’t have to deal with shipping or customs. You just place your order and the merchandise appears at your doorstep.

Buying wholesale also saves you time from having to perform extensive quality control checks on your merchandise because presumably the wholesaler has gone through it all already.

Buying Direct From Overseas Manufacturers

Buying direct from the manufacturer is the holy grail of merchandising, but it also takes the most amount of work, dedication and time. These days, almost everything is manufactured overseas because labor costs are much cheaper over there.

My general rule of thumb(for textiles at least) is if you are contacting a vendor in the United States, you aren’t going to get the best pricing for your products. I would even go as far as to say, if you are contacting someone that speaks perfect English, you aren’t going to get good prices either(Ok, that might be going a little too far).

Buying direct from the manufacturer or from overseas vendors is the best way to obtain the lowest prices, but it also presents the greatest upfront headaches. Here’s a list of things that we had to deal with when finding our vendors in Asia.

  • Our vendors spoke poor English so communication was often a big issue
  • Manufacturers in Asia have really crappy websites and it’s often hard to get an idea of their merchandise quality online
  • You have to purchase product in larger quantities, sometimes more than you are comfortable with
  • The logistics of shipping large amount of product overseas can be a major hassle
  • You will get sent crappy product at some point and you’ll have to constantly go back and forth with your vendor about quality issues until they are resolved.
  • Product returns are extremely complicated
  • There are long lead times in order to manufacture products so you have to plan ahead.
  • There may be long lead times just to obtain samples of the goods you want to sell.
  • Some of these vendors are just downright sketchy

Is Buying Direct From Overseas Worth It?

After reading about all of the hassles outlined above, is it really worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. The prices are unbeatable and the upfront investment is worth it in the long run.

Once you’ve established a good relationship with a vendor, it becomes smooth sailing from then on. You will be able to competitively price your products. You will be able to out price the larger chains and you will be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Once you have confidence in your manufacturers, you will then have the freedom to start designing your own products and that is where the big money starts to kick in. If you have the talent to design your own items, you have the potential to sell completely unique goods that no other store on the planet can offer.

How Do I Find Overseas Vendors?

A great place to start is online. There are a variety of search engines for overseas manufacturers. For example, or are good places to start for a wide variety of items.

Once you’ve found some potential vendors, call them and email them. Get a feel for whether they truly carry or manufacture the products that you’re interested in.

Once you’ve narrowed down potential vendors, it helps to have a Skype conversation. And if you can, hop on a plane and visit them directly. Especially if you are dealing with Asian vendors, face to face communication is absolutely required in order to establish a good relationship.

By speaking to your vendor face to face, you are accomplishing three main things.

One, you are showing them that you are serious about purchasing from them.

Two, you will get to see their entire inventory of products in person to judge their quality.

And three, you will be able to place a face with a name and get to know them on a personal level.

I remember on the way to visiting one of our first vendors that I was expecting to meet a sleazy asian dude wearing a wife beater and smoking a cigarette.

Much to my surprise, our supplier was actually clean cut and a pleasant, honest looking fellow. After meeting him face to face, I had much more confidence in ordering from him. I wonder if he felt the same way after meeting me?

The Choice Is Yours

How you prefer to obtain your goods from your suppliers is up to you, but buying direct is a no brainer in my book. The more work that you are willing to put into your business, the more profits that you will make.

No one said that opening an online store was going to be easy. By placing a larger investment of your time upfront, you will pave the way to greater rewards in the future.

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79 thoughts on “The Best Way To Find Vendors For Your Online Store”

  1. I drop ship with two of my vendors and it can be a PITA. I haven’t had any problems, but I do track the packages meticulously to make sure my customers do receive them!

    The good news is, I have a close relationships with both vendors (both smaller companies) so I communicate with them on a regular basis.

    1. Hi Carla,

      That’s interesting. Have you had to deal with returns yet? What about irate customers?

    2. Hi,

      My pleasure to know you are doing drop shipping business.
      we also have collect more than 800,000 products embracing 15 main categories on our site.

      We would like to cooperate with you in dropshipping and wholesale business.
      Let us talk more about the detail.

      Best Regards

      1. Hello Andrews,

        I was wondering if we can work together. I have online store too.

        Thank You,

      2. rajesh says:

        May I know more about your website.

    3. Hey Carla, how is the dropshipping working for you?. Do you know any good trustworthy shippers?

    4. katrina says:

      How did you go about finding your vendors?

    5. We are a full service wholesale company in the heart of California, You can shop directly online with us or come into our showroom we have a variety of great items ! Call us of email if you have any questions

      1. Tiny Moatlhaping says:

        Please send me more info about your wholesale services.

  2. Hi Steve,

    I never had any returns or irate customers. In fact, I never had any communication with customers aside any minor emails. Knock on wood!

    1. Wow Carla,

      Consider yourself lucky then. Either that or your customers just love your product all the way through.

  3. What a fabulous and thorough article! I always wondered about the drop shipping thing, too. I guess I like controlling stuff too much to ever go for the drop ship option. 😉

    I really enjoyed learning from you wisdom!


    1. Thanks Michele!

      Yeah, I’m too much of a control freak as well. In general, I at least want to be aware of everything that is going on even if I don’t have complete control.

  4. Well, I started drop shipping after I started selling products I purchased wholesale. I wanted to get used to all of this first before jumping into drop shipping right away.

    I wasn’t even going to drop ship but I needed to add more products to my site on a limited budget. I don’t like giving up the control either, but ‘them the breaks’ for the time being.

    1. Hey Carla,

      I didn’t mean to imply that drop shipping is a bad idea In fact I have a few friends that have been successful doing it. But you need a very high traffic and conversion ratio in order to make a living out of it. Power to you for getting it right for your store!

  5. Outstanding article. I can definitely vouch for the headaches of drop shipping, all it takes is one supplier screw up and you really have mess on your hands, thanks for the tips on wholesaling!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Brian!

      Finding the right supplier is definitely the key. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. Thanks for the article, I have been looking for this quite some time now. I have visited but never contact one of the vendors there which I might try out soon. How about some other importing issues like dealing with customs and so on?

    1. Hey Wayne,

      I’m not sure that dealing with customs warrants an entire article but I’ll try and cover it in a future post.

  7. I have been a retailer in the US for the last 30 years. I branched into mail order in the early 90s. What I found then was that in my industries the best sellers were big name brand items.

    I have imported some furniture from Indonesia and it didn’t go very well. The cost of storage after you get semi loads of product hurts too.

    A good customs broker can help a lot.

    It usually takes a lot of capital to purchase in container sized lots.


    1. Hey Rick,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences on the blog. I guess success importing depends on the product. I couldn’t even imagine shipping furniture from overseas. I guess our inventory is on the smaller end so everything works out well.

  8. Hiya Steve,

    I’m back from Bermuda Triangle, hahaha! This post brings me back to the time when I was helping a friend with his online retail clothing business. All the issues you face and the benefits you reap in the United States are pretty much valid here in Asia as well. I had to chuckle when you said English speaking vendors come with a higher price tag … it’s true!

    1. Hi Irene,
      Wow, it has been a long time and I’m glad you are back! Hopefully for good this time. Yeah, it’s somewhat curious how there’s a direct relationship between cost and English speaking capability. If I call on a vendor and they speak perfect English, I tell them that I accidentally dialed the wrong number. Saves us both time!

  9. Thanks Steve! I guess time will tell if I can generate the traffic I need.

    1. Hey Carla,

      You know that I’m always rooting for you! You’ll have to share some of your experiences with me in the future. Are you up for a guest post maybe?

  10. Hi Steve – I would be honored! 😀

  11. Hi Steve,

    Your articles are always filled with so much of your personal experience which make it much more interesting and authentic. This article had taught me something that I would need to know if I were to open an online store and thanks for the article. :)

    Personal Development Blogger

    1. Thanks Vincent,

      I really appreciate the comment!

  12. Hi Steve,

    You mentioned in a previous article that you had problems with your suppliers at first regarding quality.

    Did you visit them often, although its overseas, to check the order and quality as your orders got bigger or was it just based on trust?

    1. Hi Vanya

      We visited them in order to establish trust and rapport. As orders got bigger, we simply let them know which products were not up to par. Usually they would allow us to return the defective merchandise. Then in subsequent orders, they would fix the quality issues. It’s an iterative process.

  13. Naomi says:

    Hi Steve,
    I must say your articles have been pretty insightful. I have been so lazy about starting my own online store. Each time i get to a stage, I am just overwhelmed by some fear and I stopped.
    I have hosted a website but got stuck with where to find my products. I just abandoned the whole idea for about a year now.
    My worries are getting the right suppliers and quality.
    I hate my job so much and life was becoming a drag. I need help with starting up urgently.

  14. Did you have to obtain a work or travel Visa in order to interact with suppliers in Asia? What issues did you encounter or how did you prepare for the administrative side of getting in to view suppliers’ operations?

    1. @Micaela
      Unless you are visiting them in China, you don’t need a Visa. In terms of what issues we had when dealing with Asian vendors, I’ve written several posts about that already. Do a search for “vendors” and you’ll see a bunch of posts come up.

      1. daw wij says:

        we provide elegant collections at reasonable prices
        you can contact us for more information.

  15. lartiste says:

    i was with you until you said i had to go to china.. i have major fear of planes(like full blown panic anxiety and passing out) .. so much for that

  16. This is really very informative article. Do you know any other website than aliibaba for searching?


  17. @Ashley
    You can also try

  18. buythiscomputer says:

    I usually buy from the Personal shopper bangkok company in Thailand if it helps.

      1. nataliaf says:

        Thank you I will try them, seems good.

    1. Ayok says:

      Hello… I have paid for their service and have sent ’em pictures of apparels to buy for me and its been 12 days now and they haven’t replied a single mail i sent….. Did it take you long to hear back from ’em when you started using their service?? Your response will be much appreciated….

  19. Ihezie John Arinze says:

    Good morning Mr. Steve, Pls i am an Average worker living in Nigeria,and i would like to ask if you know any type of shipment or business to go into. Thanks.

  20. Catrina says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the info. I’m having a difficult time deciding on a niche market for my online store. I just became informed about Canton Fair. Do you believe that it is a good idea or a bad idea to attend the fair without a definite product niche in mind? Or is it ok to attend the fair in order to see some options and get some ideas from there?


    1. Hi Catrina,

      I would probably not attend the Canton Fair without having some sort of idea what you want to sell. The show is gigantic! And probably bigger than anything you’ve ever seen. Unless you have focus, I doubt that you’d be able to cover the entire show floor.

  21. Anna Wilson says:

    Have you ever heard of a trade show in the US that you could visit to see products?

  22. kevin says:

    This article is very useful, it helped a lot of viewers to get insight knowledge. Am currently living in china and been doing export business for quiet a long time. My advice would be not to trust easily some online companies when it comes to suppliers as you can find lot of small companies in Alibaba with fake accounts and ripping off newbies.

    1. Do not focus only on price as they provide some fancy price and once the deposit is been placed, the shipment wont be processed as stated.

    2. When searching for suppliers make sure they have direct contact with factories and provide you with adequate certificates and other international standards.

    3. Some small suppliers will tend to produce very low quality product for extremely low price, when it comes for shipment you will end up in misery as for few countries it is easier but most western countries have certain standards.

    If you need any assistance or help write to me at, I can provide you help in finding some suitable supplier and can suggest you some good ideas about finding a good supplier. Please be aware before finding a supplier from Alibaba.

    1. kgat says:

      Thank you that was really helpful

  23. pyna says:

    Hi. I want to find a supplier or vendors. Please help me find them :( i want to sell shoes and clothes or inspired items

  24. Hi everyone, If your interested in having oversea Vendors we as a EMC company can help you find the right vendors and the right products. We can get you almost anything you want give Us a shot!!

    Warm Regards
    Omar Abukar

  25. Efrain Serna says:

    Hello, I am 17 and really excited to learn about online selling. If any one needs help and is willing to take me under their wing. I would more than gladly be open to pay you as a tutor and help you out. If anyone is interested in helping me please contact me.

  26. Anilkumar says:

    Hi steve , I am starting a website that will showcase indigenously made stuff from india and available to indians and the world . This means my vendors are small and medium indian manufacturers and my buyers will be people across the globe looking for indian products . Steve a few words of advise from you and other experienced friends here will be a great help .


  27. How much money would it be recommended to have on hand before attempting to start an online shop?

  28. Gerry says:

    Hey Family. I am in the process of starting a online business where I will be selling church clothing. I am seeking wholesalers that are dropshipers of ladies dresses, hats, etc. and men suits, shoes, etc that can be worn to church services, church events and work. Thank you in advance.

  29. Chloe says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’m also considering to start a new business in apparel, could you please inform me about the process of custom clearance in US? Is there any information source or service that can help us?


  30. I was also looking for a wholesale supplier during the initial stages of my online store development. However I found the best supplier from a very popular directory. I would suggest to do a detail research in directory sites as well.

    1. Myaika says:

      Hi. I’m looking to start an online store selling jewelry and clothes. I’m looking for good vendors. Please help

  31. I have the hardest time finding vendor that use American sizing versus “Asian sizes”. I do not like ordering “plus sized” products just to fit an American size 6 in a 3X… that is beyond ridiculous. Do you have any insight on that?

    Thank you,

  32. David says:


    My name is David and I wanted to open a online store on esoteric and pagan products, however, I have no experience and I can’t find suppliers for any products of my interest in selling. Can anyone help me, please?


  33. vesta wleh says:

    i want to opening a online store. This course will be a great help to me.

  34. Chantel says:

    I am also looking to start up an online store for womens clothing and was struggling to find the right supplier. this has helped me out alot, it seems i have a lot more research to do before I buy. i will be attending Pure London tomorrow just to get some ideas. I never even heard of drop selling until I read this article thanks steve.

  35. janice doreen says:

    Try for trendy and cheap.
    I have two boutiques of my own, the key is to find a few great suppliers and develop relationships with them to where you can get good discounts and special offers.

    1. Tiffany says:

      I want to start my online business and I would love for you to help me please.

  36. Mahima mehra says:

    Hi. Have to start with a new western clothing outfit business. So would like to link up

  37. seema jain says:

    I m a reseller. I want ur products at wholesale price.

  38. seema jain says:

    I m a reseller. I want ur products at wholesale price. 9873713271

  39. Mohammad says:

    Hi everyone my name is Mohammad, I’m in the import/export industry of textiles. I work very closely with variety of garment factories in Bangladesh, primarily owned by close family members. I am able to provide affordable rates for any type of garments required. The companies/ factories in relations with me, are able to supply high quality garments for the lowest price available. Please feel free to contact me, if you are interested in branching out.

    T-shirt – $3 to $7
    Pants – $4 to $14
    Shirts – $4 to $9

    I’m located in New York City if anyone wants to meet up and discuss it further my contact information is by email or phone

  40. GAUTAM says:


    I am planning start a online store for printed t-shirts and planning to ship them from overseas. So my question that if i ship them from a supplier who prints t-shirts with famous cartoon(Disney etc) or super hero(Marvels etc) can i just buy and sell them as usual or do i need a copyright permission for selling these t shirts in my country.

  41. james loren says:

    Hello Sales,
    Greetings from Loren Lee D.J Shop INC. My name is James Loren. I will
    like to place an order to, Mississippi however i would like to know if you
    accept private pickup and let me know the credit card type you
    accept(Master,Visa Card) as form of payment.
    It will be appreciated if you return my email with your latest updated
    website or attached price sheets of your products.


    James Loren

  42. Arielle says:

    Hi! I just opened an online trendy women’s boutique back in May. So far, it’s been slow going and has taken a lot of faith. I’ve been looking at and was wondering if you knew of any other sites like it or if anyone had ever had any experience with this particular site? This is all new to me, so any tips are helpful :)

  43. Hi. We want to find a supplier or vendors. Our online business is in India and we are dealing in Women’s & Men’s Dresses ,Mobile, Mobile Accessories , Shoes ,Toys. Please help for same.

  44. Jenna says:

    I want to sell kids brand nameclothing like roxy, bench, quicksilver where would I find cheap vendors for this???

  45. david packer says:

    I would like to make an inquiry about some products. But before i proceed,
    Please inform me on:

    – Shipping to Belize, Central America (if possible) ?
    – Minimum order quantity ?
    – If credit card is accepted ?
    – Delivery lead time ?

    I would be awaiting to receive the reply as soon as possible.

    david packer {MD}
    david packer Ventures
    47Z Sandased Drive,
    Belize City, Belize Central America.
    Telephone Number: +13092705992

    order enquiries

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