If you want to start an online store, you have to know where to find small business wholesale vendors.
- Should you search on Google?
- Should you attend a tradeshow?
- Should you import from China?
Where can you find drop ship suppliers, wholesalers and factories to manufacture your products?
When my wife and I first started our online business, we had these exact same questions.
The correct approach for finding a small business wholesale supplier or factory is highly dependent on your ecommerce business model.
For example, the methodology for finding a wholesale supplier that dropships is completely different than finding a private label manufacturer.
This post will discuss where to find the best wholesale vendors depending on whether you…
- Sell Dropshipped Products
- Sell Wholesale Products
- Sell Private Label Products
Based on my experience running my 7 figure ecommerce store, here’s my take on the best way to find wholesale suppliers and vendors for your online business.
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The Best Wholesale Vendors For Dropshipping
Dropshipping is an ecommerce business model where you don’t have to stock any inventory for the products you sell. Whenever an order comes in, you simply place the exact same order to your dropshipper and collect the profit based on the difference in price.
Your dropshipping supplier handles the entire fulfillment process. All you have to do is take orders, perform customer service and your supplier stores and fulfills your orders.
As a result, dropshipping is a great way to start an online store without risking a lot of money.
Here are the best places to find wholesale vendors that dropship.
Editor’s Note: Go here for more detailed descriptions of my recommended dropshipping suppliers.
Worldwide Brands is a directory of wholesale suppliers who dropship in the United States.
There are over 16 million products offered on the platform that range from apparel, consumer electronics, beauty products, office products and more.
There is a one time membership fee of $299 to access the directory and most suppliers are in the United States or Canada.
I’ve personally used Worldwide Brands in the past to quickly find small business wholesale suppliers to fill out our inventory for sparse categories.
SaleHoo is a wholesale supplier directory of dropshippers that cater to international clients. As a result, many of the wholesale suppliers found on SaleHoo are not from the United States.
Based in New Zealand, SaleHoo boasts over 8000 trusted dropshipping suppliers that sell over 2.5 million different products and brands across a variety of categories including consumer electronics, health and beauty, pet supplies and more.
SaleHoo’s main value add is that every supplier in their directory is pre-vetted with up to date information and you get instant access to a wide variety of products to dropship in your store.
Salehoo charges a one time access fee of $127. Alternatively, you can pay $67 per year for membership.
Doba is an all in one wholesale supplier for dropshipping that is both a directory and a marketplace.
On Doba, you’ll find thousands of dropshipping vendors to source products for your ecommerce business.
Once you find a wholesale supplier, Doba also manages all of your ordering and fulfillment operations as well.
Here’s how it works.
- You find products on Doba that you want to sell.
- You add these products to your online store.
- When you receive an order, Doba automatically passes your order to the dropship supplier who fulfills the order.
Basically, Doba acts as a bridge to a large database of wholesale suppliers that will dropship on your behalf.
The main disadvantage is that you will never know who your suppliers truly are as Doba hides that information from you.
Doba charges a monthly fee from $24.99/month to $299/month depending on the plan that you choose.
Spocket is a directory of wholesale vendors willing to dropship on your behalf. Most of the suppliers on their platform are from the US or the EU and the product quality is top notch.
Using their app, you can instantly add products you find on Spocket to your Shopify store.
When an order comes in, it is electronically sent to Spocket where they handle inventory management and order fulfillment.
The only disadvantage to using Spocket is that they have a smaller selection of products compared to other wholesale supplier directories on this list.
Spocket charges a membership fee that starts at $24.99/month all the way up to $99/month depending on the number of products you sell.
The Best Wholesale Vendors For Print On Demand
Print on demand is a form of dropshipping where you work with a supplier to print your own custom designs on white label products like a t-shirts, mugs, pillows etc…
No money is required upfront. When your customer makes a purchase, the print on demand company builds your product with your design on the fly and ships it to your customer.
You don’t have to pay for the cost of your product until after it’s been sold which allows you to start a print on demand dropshipping store for very little money.
Here are my top 3 print on demand wholesale vendors to work with.
Editor’s Note: Go here for a more comprehensive list of print on demand companies.
Printful is my favorite print on demand company and they offer a large selection of products to choose from. They print all of their own goods in house with fast turnaround times and their print quality is excellent.
Right now, Printful is one of the largest, vertically integrated POD wholesale suppliers in the world and they support all of the major shopping carts out of the box including Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce.
Printify is a print on demand company that does not print any of their own merchandise. Instead, they have a network of print providers in over 90 locations in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and China.
As a result, the print quality that you receive can be hit or miss depending on the specific provider you work with.
Printify’s primary advantage is the sheer size of their print on demand business network with over 250+ unique products to choose from.
Because their network is so large, you can often find a print on demand company local to where you live.
CustomCat is a vertically integrated print on demand company like Printful that does all of it’s own printing in house. However, CustomCat has a significantly smaller product selection.
However, CustomCat is less expensive than most other providers which allows you to make more money selling your print on demand products.
My kids use CustomCat for their tshirt business over at KidInCharge.com and their print quality is fantastic.
How To Find The Best Wholesale Vendors In The US
The simplest way to find a small business wholesale supplier in the US is by Googling the company of the product you want to sell, going on their website, and finding out who their wholesale distributors are.
Smaller companies typically won’t have distributors and will sell to you directly. Wholesale discounts are usually on the order of 30-50% off MSRP. And depending on the item and the brand, the minimum order can be as low as a hundred dollars.
Outside of Googling, here are the best ways to find wholesale suppliers in the US.
DataAxle (Aka. Reference USA)
ReferenceUSA is a database of every registered business in the United States that can be accessed to find wholesale vendors and factories in the US.
The best part is that it’s 100% free.
The only catch is that ReferenceUSA can only be accessed at your local library but most libraries support the service.
In addition to finding wholesale suppliers, ReferenceUSA can also be used to…
- Locate any type of retail company
- Research business executives
- Find factories to produce your products
ThomasNet is a searchable database of US suppliers that caters to industrial and commercial companies.
If you have a product that you want to manufacture in the United States, then ThomasNet is an excellent resource.
ThomasNet contains detailed information for every wholesale supplier including their size, annual sales, product information, certifications and more.
The site is 100% free and you can send an email, request a quote or visit the supplier’s website.
Wholesale Central is a wholesale directory that contains a list of wholesale companies and wholesale trade shows in the US.
The best way to find and meet with multiple wholesale vendors in a short period of time is by attending a local trade show.
Wholesale Central sorts every show by product category and you can easily find a niche specific convention to attend.
The best wholesale suppliers can be found at trade shows because they go through a vetting process and have the funds to invest in a booth.
If you live near a major city, you should definitely go and check out a trade show if you have the time. All you need is a sellers permit and admission is free for most shows.
How To Find The Best Wholesale Vendors From China
Today, most products are manufactured in China and other parts of Asia because the labor costs are much cheaper.
The general rule of thumb(for textiles at least) is that if you are buying from a vendor in the United States, you aren’t going to get the best pricing for your products.
Buying direct from the manufacturer or importing from China is the best way to obtain the lowest prices.
Here’s how to find a China wholesale supplier to source your products.
Alibaba is a wholesale supplier directory where you can search for factories to manufacture your own private label products.
Most vendors on Alibaba are willing to create products according to your exact specifications with your brand and label.
As a result, Alibaba is the best way to find private label manufacturers online.
Using Alibaba, you can:
- Buy Products At Low Prices – Because the cost of labor is low in Asia, you can obtain margins of 66% or more.
- Find Thousands Of Suppliers – Alibaba is the largest supplier directory in the world for Asian factories.
- Create Your Own Brand – Most factories can put your brand on the products you buy.
- Create Custom Designs – You can work with factories on Alibaba to fabricate your own custom products for sale.
In addition, Alibaba vets all of their factories and provides you with useful information so you can quickly find the best suppliers.
With a click of a button, you can easily contact a Chinese supplier directly and ask for quotes, minimum order quantities and lead times.
The best part is you don’t have to travel to Asia to find a great supplier.
Go here for more information on how to buy from Alibaba.
Similar to Alibaba, Global Sources is also a wholesale supplier directory of Asian manufacturers.
However, Global Sources is significantly smaller than Alibaba and has different strengths.
If you are sourcing electronics, then Global Sources is by far the better service. In fact, the vendors you find on Global Sources tend to be higher quality because they vet their companies more closely.
But on the flip side, the vendors on Global Sources are more established and prefer to work with companies with greater purchasing power. As a result, the minimum order quantities tend to be higher on Global Sources vs Alibaba.
Overall, Alibaba has a much larger selection of vendors but it tends to be a mixed bag in terms of quality and legitimacy.
Some companies on Alibaba are trading companies. Some listings are individuals doing online arbitrage.
If you plan on sourcing products from China, be sure to browse both directories.
The Canton Fair is one of the largest sourcing shows in the world. Held in GuangZhou, China twice per year, the Canton Fair hosts wholesale vendors from all over the world that produce nearly every type of product.
Because the show is so large, it’s split into 3 phases.
- Phase 1: Electronics, household electrical appliances, machinery, lighting equipment, hardware and tools, vehicles and spare parts, building materials, chemical products.
- Phase 2: Consumer products,decorations goods, gifts.
- Phase 3: Textiles & garments, shoes, office supplies, cases & bags, recreation products, medicines, medical devices and health products
The Canton Fair is held in April and October every year and it’s free to attend . Due to the pandemic, there are also options to attend the Canton Fair virtually.
If you have the means, I highly recommended that you attend in person. Even though finding and contacting vendors via Alibaba and Global Sources is fairly straightforward, it is a very slow and cumbersome process.
Not only do you have to get individual samples sent back and forth from Asia, but there’s also a major communication slowdown because exchanging emails is highly inefficient.
Add in the time difference and you only have a small window of time everyday to communicate.
By attending a China wholesale trade show, you can see sample products for thousands of Chinese vendors all at once in a single location.
You can see and touch all of the merchandise without having to wait several weeks.
Because so many different vendors congregate at the Canton Fair and bring their merchandise with them, you can easily cover hundreds of vendors in the span of just a few days.
There’s no back and forth or delay in communication. You don’t have to get samples made and sent overseas. Everything is right there at your fingertips.
Go here for my guide to the Canton Fair.
Jungle Scout Supplier Database
Even though the vendor reviews on Alibaba and Global Sources are helpful for evaluating potential vendors, an even faster way to vet great suppliers is to spy on who your competitors are using.
What is a supplier database?
Every sea shipping container that enters the United States must clear customs before it is allowed to cross the border. And during this process, every shipment is carefully documented in the US customs database.
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 by sea.
For example, here is a sample shipping document(bill of lading) for The North Face.
From this document, you can easily find North Face’s supplier and the size and weight of their shipment. This information is extremely powerful!
My favorite supplier database tool is called the Jungle Scout Supplier Database
For a small fee, you can quickly find the best suppliers your competition is using!
Below is a video demo I created on how to use the Jungle Scout supplier database tool to find your suppliers.
Note: I have negotiated a significant discount on the tool for MyWifeQuitHerJob.com readers. Click Here To Save $20/month on The Jungle Scout Supplier Database
The Best Wholesale Clothing Suppliers In The US
I’m often asked if China is the right answer when sourcing apparel, bags, shoes and other accessories. If you are doing huge volumes, then the answer is yes.
But for most small business owners, making clothing in China is overkill. You’re much better off buying fabric in the US and finding a local sewist to make your goods for you.
Only once you have the patterns down and know that you can sell in sufficient volume should you import a large quantity.
If you want to manufacture your own products in the US, there are many ways to find a reliable supplier.
For textiles and clothing, you can visit the local garment district in your area.
If you want to manufacture your own goods in the US, check out my post on 4 Ways To Find USA Wholesale Suppliers
You can also use Google and look for local manufacturers, wholesale companies and product designers.
If you are specifically looking to sell ready made wholesale clothing, you can try the following companies in the US.
Wholesale Fashion Square
WholesaleFashionSquare.com is a wholesale clothing marketplace of manufacturers and importers from Los Angeles, CA. Most of their items are sold in bundles of 6 and they offer very reasonable pricing on their items.
Overall, they have one of the largest selections of wholesale clothing in the United States spanning accessories, jewelry, scarves, makeup accessories and clothing for all seasons and occasions.
LA Show Room
Similar to Wholesale Fashion Square, LAShowRoom.com also offers a huge selection of clothing from designers, manufacturers, and wholesale distributors from around the world.
New products are added every week and they carry mens, womens and children’s clothing from a variety of brands.
Membership is 100% free but LA Showroom only allows access to established wholesale buyers. There is a thorough vetting process before granting access to its stores.
The Best Wholesale Clothing Suppliers In China
Once you are ready for larger scale clothing manufacturing, then finding wholesale suppliers in China makes the most economic sense.
Just to give you an idea of pricing, you can buy a blank t-shirt in China for as little as 50 cents depending on quality.
But the downside is that the Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) for clothing is on the order of 300-500 pieces per design. In many cases, you have to order 300-500 pieces per size as well.
As a result, manufacturing clothing in China carries a large upfront investment. In general, you should only order designs from China that you know you can sell in volume.
In addition to finding clothing manufacturers on Alibaba and Global Sources, you can also look at the following companies for clothing suppliers in China.
Fashionline is a top manufacturer and wholesale supplier for women’s fashion apparel. They’ve been in business for over 15 years and specialize in making clothing for small boutiques.
The best part is that you can buy clothing in small quantities (min. 6 pieces) so you can test a style prior to making a bulk order.
Fashionline does not charge any membership fees, packaging fees or commissions.
FashionTIY is an online wholesale market that specializes in clothing, accessories, bags, shoes and jewelry for both men and women.
While you can find clothing suppliers on directories like Alibaba, FashionTIY specializes in fashion and you can find what you need much faster than with a generic marketplace.
Also unlike Alibaba, FashionTIY is vertically integrated and ships out your products directly from their warehouse.
You don’t have to contact and interface with different suppliers. All transactions are conducted directly on the FashionTIY website.
When To Source Product From Asia Vs the United States Or Your Home Country
While the wholesale price for your goods will tend to be cheaper if purchased from China, importing from Asia will not always be the right answer for everyone.
There are many factors that you need to take into account. First off, the main advantage of importing from China is that the labor costs are significantly cheaper.
Therefore if you want to sell products that are labor intensive to create, going with China will almost always be cheaper. So textiles, clothing and anything that needs to be handmade are ideal candidates for importing.
But let’s say you manufacture plastic toys and you already own the molds. The cost of plastic between the US and Asia will probably not differ enough to warrant manufacturing in China.
The other thing you need to consider are the minimum order quantities and the cost of shipping and customs.
Note: I created a true landed cost of goods shipping calculator that you should check out if you plan on importing from overseas. Click here to check it out
You should also be aware that the term “wholesale” gets thrown around a lot in the United States and the definition can be misleading.
Buying wholesale implies that the price is the lowest that you can find. But that’s rarely the case.
For example, when I was looking for a wholesale vendors in the US, I noticed that most small business wholesale suppliers quoted extremely high prices that were comparable to Walmart.
While they were cheaper than MSRP (MSRP is just a made up number anyway), the wholesale prices were so high that the profit margins would have been in the single digits for the products we wanted to sell.
In general, US wholesale suppliers (or wholesale suppliers from your home country) are going to be more expensive. But using a local wholesale supplier has its advantages.
Because many products are not made in the United States anymore, wholesale suppliers take care of all the hassle of importing and warehousing the goods from the manufacturer.
You don’t have to travel to a foreign country. You don’t have to deal with shipping or customs. You just place your order and the merchandise appears at your doorstep.
Finding domestic wholesale suppliers also saves you time from having to perform extensive quality control checks on your merchandise because presumably the wholesale supplier has gone through it all already.
Overall, it’s a trade off between time vs money.
Finding Wholesale Vendors Summary
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 small 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.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in learning how to start your own online store, click here to take my FREE 6 day mini course on ecommerce.
Frequently Asked Questions About Finding Wholesale Vendors
What Are Wholesale Vendors?
Wholesale vendors are merchants who buy goods in large quantities directly from the manufacturer or factory at a significant discount. The wholesale vendor then resells these items directly to small businesses at a wholesale rate. Wholesale margins are typically 50%
What Are The Best Wholesale Sites To Buy From?
The answer depends. If you are looking to source from China, then use Alibaba or Global Sources. If you are in the US, then use Reference USA or Wholesale Central. In general, wholesale directories are less attractive than if you do your own legwork and find the distributor directly.
Can You Buy Wholesale Without A Business License?
You can definitely buy wholesale without a business. However, you may be charged sales tax which can affect your margins. In general, there's nothing magical about the word wholesale. As long as you can make a profit, that's what matters.
Do You Need A Tax ID To Buy Wholesale?
A business tax wholesale number allows you to buy goods wholesale without paying sales tax. While it is not explicitly required, some vendors may not be willing to sell to you unless you have a business license and tax ID
Is It Legal To Buy Products And Resell Them?
It is completely legal to buy products and resell them. However, you must register for a sellers permit in order to pay sales tax to your governing entity.
Related Posts In How To Find Products To Sell
- How To Approach A New Wholesale Vendor Or Supplier When You Have No Store, No Site And No Sales
- MOQ Meaning – What Is MOQ And How To Negotiate With Suppliers
- Is Alibaba Legit And Safe? Read This Before You Buy!
- Is DHGate Legit And Safe? Read This To Avoid The Scams
- Is A China Sourcing Agent Worth The Money? Read This Before You Use One
Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.