Chapter 5

How To Find and Buy Wholesale Clothing

wholesale clothing

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As an ecommerce expert and business coach who primarily works with new and emerging brands in the fashion and lifestyle space, I regularly receive emails and comments from people who struggle to find great wholesale clothes.

wholesale clothing

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They struggle to find wholesale clothes for three main reasons:

  • Outreach and getting the wholesale supplier to respond
  • Buying samples and being disappointed with the quality
  • International sizes not matching up with US or UK sizing

As someone who’s experienced all of the above, I know they’re speaking facts. And while there are a ton of wholesale directories that you can sign up to, that doesn’t mean you’ve struck gold. And it’s important to remember that people can have a diverse range of experiences all working with the same wholesale clothing vendor, so do your research.

Exercise your own discernment, and don’t forget to do small test purchases for vendors you’re skeptical about.

Let’s answer some of the questions I get when it comes to buying wholesale clothing online and in-person.

5.1 How To Use Forums and Facebook Groups To Find Wholesalers

When it comes to using forums to find wholesalers online, I like to start with the search function, because most questions have already been asked.

Using the search function means you can find those questions which contain a keyword, and this will pull up any threads that contain that keyword.

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Next, I like to read the comments. This is where you’ll find people sharing helpful suggestions.

Expert Tip: Don’t be surprised to discover hordes of wholesale suppliers and agents lurking in forums. Sometimes it’s obvious who they are, but oftentimes it’s not – which is how they like it.

 

If you find a comment which feels and reads a bit like a press statement or an ad, then it’s likely to be from an agent.

When in doubt, feel free to ask – especially if it’s a fresh comment or thread.

Now, be warned this type of information mining can be slow and time consuming – especially when you factor in any due diligence you may want to do on the companies you find. But I like to type in the name of the wholesaler, scanning any results for words like ‘review’, ‘complaint’, ‘avoid’, ‘scam’.

Here are a few ecommerce forums worth checking out:

But here’s where it gets tricky and your discernment needs to come into play.

Image from Ecommerce forum

There are some wholesalers who will fraudulently post bad reviews of their competitors to steal their potential customers. So you need to balance out what you read with a little common sense, and possibly check more than one source.

Related Content: Wholesale Clothing Vendors – how to find the best one

5.2 Six Benefits of Wholesale Clothing Trade Shows

Next, we’re going to dive into trade shows and how you can position yourself to find the best wholesale clothing suppliers and get your hands on emerging trends before everyone else.

But first, let’s look at a few other perks to attending wholesale trade shows.

Dale Majors – Weave Commerce.

Where possible, spend time with your suppliers. I can’t count how many deals I’ve found being face-to face with suppliers at trades shows and industry events.

 

1) Industry Expert Seminars

Run by ecommerce industry experts, you can attend seminars on everything from inventory projection to social media strategy. Not only do you get the chance to find great wholesale clothing, but you get tips on how to sell them from those who have been in your situation.

2) In-person Meetings

A fashion trade show is overflowing with some of the best wholesale clothing suppliers, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by everything going on and lose focus.

I can’t highlight the importance of building solid relationships with your vendors, and trade shows present a great opportunity to schedule a time to speak with them in person.

3) Negotiation Opportunities

It’s much easier to negotiate in person as you’re able to make eye contact and read body language. If your vendors are not local to you then trade shows are the best opportunity for you to meet and negotiate a better deal in person.

Expert Tip: Tradeshows are your opportunity to be a bit more aggressive when negotiating prices with your wholesale clothing vendor.

 

4) Press Exposure

Not only will you find wholesale clothing vendors at trade shows, but you’ll also find members of relevant press and magazine editors frequent these shows to get ahead of the curve.

That’s why I recommend joining the seminars.

Network, take cards, and don’t forget to bring your own. If you can get on the radar and get your business card into the right hands, there’s the opportunity to create a great connection and score some free press.

5) Meet Potential Collaborators

Wholesale clothing trade shows are full of new entrepreneurs just like you. And while it’s tempting to focus your networking efforts on vendors, big brands and influencers (yep! they attend trade shows too) I actually find some of the best networking to be done among new entrepreneurs.

Look for people who have brands that are aligned (but not the same as) yours and connect with them in person. On returning home think about how you can partner with these people – then follow up.

6) Meet (and Get Ahead of) The Competition

Don’t forget, trade shows are filled with your competitors all looking to snag some wholesale clothes to thrill their customers.

This makes wholesale shows a great place to see what your competitors are buying. This information can either be used to tip you in the right direction to go. Or, you can even use it to help you know what not to pick as you don’t want to have the same thing as everyone else.

Expert Tip: Bring a notebook, charger bank, business cards and a few pens.

 

Now that we’ve discussed the additional bonuses of attending trade shows, I want to share some tips on how you can get the most out of your day.

5.3 Ten Trade Show Attendance Tips

1. Check out the daily schedule

There’s a lot going on at trade shows, so it pays to do your research and plan your day in advance.

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2. Wear flat shoes. Just trust me. WEAR FLATS.

In fact, when it comes to what you wear I suggest that you keep it smart, casual and comfy. You’ll cover a lot of foot miles during a trade show and you’ll enjoy it more if you’re wearing comfortable clothing.

3. Don’t photograph vendors’ booths without permission.

When you discover a new wholesale clothing vendor you love, it can be tempting to start snapping away at their merchandise.

Don’t! It’s a surefire way to get off to a rough start with your new business contact.

4. Research the vendors and speakers you’re interested in.

Before a job interview, you should research the hiring company. In much the same way, you should research the vendors and speakers who’ll be in attendance at the trade show. This way you can make sure you prioritise seeing the best ones.

5. Bring your artwork or logo on a drive if you want custom pieces.

If you’re looking for blanks or to have your design printed on something, bring the files along with you as many wholesale clothing suppliers have the ability to mockup your product right in front of you.

6. Be careful who you give your business card to.

It can be tempting to start handing out your new shiny business cards like tic tacs. But unless you want your email and phone flooded with unsolicited sales calls for weeks after, then only give your details to vendors you really want to build a relationship with.

7. Create a few conversation starters.

If you’re a bit of an introvert, attending something like a trade show can be daunting. So go ahead and jot down a few quick conversation starters you can use if you get shy. Here are some lines I use all the time:

  1. Which of the seminars/speakers are you most looking forward to?
  2. What’s been your favourite vendor so far?
  3. Is this your first year here, and are there any other shows you think I should visit?

8. Bring your reseller’s permit with you.

Don’t forget to bring your permits with you as some trade shows will ask to see them before they admit you. Likewise, some vendors may ask to see them before they allow you to place an order.

9. Plan your social media strategy.

Even though the focus is of course to find your next powerhouse wholesale clothing vendor, trade shows are a great place to create behind-the-scenes content that you can share with your audience. Make sure you bring a battery pack for your phone or camera.

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10. Set a budget and stick to it.

I can’t speak for you, but when I get in spending mode I can go crazy. This is especially true when I’m in an environment where everyone is spending. Before you go to the trade show set a budget that you will spend, and try to stay within it. That is, unless you see that killer product that you know you can definitely sell.

Related Content: Finding The Best Wholesalers For Summer Stock

5.4 How to Buy From Liquidation and Overstock Suppliers

While this is definitely a fantastic way to find quality wholesale clothing at bargain basement prices, I don’t really recommend this approach when you’re just starting out.

In my experience, buying from liquidation and other types of closeout suppliers tends to work best when you have a few ‘ecommerce road miles’ under your belt.  

Finding accurate information on liquidated stock can be a lengthy process though, and it can also be time sensitive if you’re looking for certain type of stock in a certain season.

To make matters even more complicated, the large majority of liquidation wholesalers don’t have their own websites so finding these types of wholesalers online is not always the easiest task.

So how do you got about snagging some great liquidation bargains, without getting snagged up in a messy and expensive situation?

Well the good news is, it’s entirely possible if you know what you’re doing. But before we look at that, let’s take a deeper look at what liquidated stock is.

What Exactly is ‘Liquidated’ Stock?

Many brands and department stores buy or manufacture masses of stock. They don’t always get their trending or inventory forecasts correct, which means each season they’re left with thousands of units of unsold or slow selling product taking up space in their warehouse.

This stock is not making them money. In fact, it’s actually costing them money to house.

Expert Tip: When buying liquidated or overstock, you need to consider that the original retailer couldn’t sell them – even with steep discounts. So make sure you know how you plan to sell them.

 

To shift this stock in large quantities as quickly as possible, the stock is palletized and sold off at slashed prices. Quite often, the knowledge of these direct liquidation sales are limited to those buyers with the capital and resources to buy big.

Many of these businesses then break down the pallets and make smaller bundles, before reselling this wholesale clothing to other store owners. While others are purchasing these items for their own brick and mortar or online business, or to flip on other ecommerce sales channels like Ebay, Amazon or Poshmark.

Liquidation sales are also one of the few places you can go to buy high fashion wholesale clothing for a tiny fraction of the price. But it’s important to realise that these bundles will also contain returns, quality seconds, and sometimes even refurbished items.

Stores like Walmart regularly liquidate pallets of customer returns.

The items that go into these pallets are cherry-picked to contain the best of the worst–but you need to take into consideration that these bundles are sold with a no refund policy. Buyer beware.

There are some industries where buying liquidated stock can actually be a very risky and time-intensive option, such as electronics.

Related Content: 2018 List of Best wholesale Liquidation Companies

5.5 Liquidation Industry Terms You Need to Be Aware of

Just like in any industry, there’s some terminology that it helps to know if you want to navigate your way through quickly and like a pro. Below you’ll find the most commonly used industry terms that will help you understand the liquidation wholesale industry.

Black Lining

This is where the brand will have any liquidation reseller strike through their brand label to make it clear that this item was not bought directly from them. This doesn’t necessarily mean the item is damaged in any other way. You may also see a label in the item which says ‘second’.

Past Season Transfers (PSTs)

These are also called seasonal shelf pulls. They’re rarely sold directly to retailers like yourself, but rather to large businesses who then resell these items in wholesale bundles again.

Retail stores are seasonal in their inventory buying, but this means previous inventory needs to shifted. PST are the best quality of inventory pulled from shelves, though they do occasionally contain items that have some damage from repeat handling.

First Quality

These are the best quality items which tend to be free from any defects in manufacturing issues.

Customer Returns

This is pretty self explanatory. If you’re looking for wholesale clothing that you can sell at a solid markup, then you need to be mindful that lots of pallets you buy from liquidation sales can and do contain customer returns.

Irregulars

Irregulars are also called factory seconds. This merchandise tends to be in great condition but has a small defect which means it’s not quite perfect. Shading, needle lines, wonky stitching – this is the type of flaw you’ll find in irregulars.

5.6 How to Buy Liquidated Wholesale Clothing

1. Have a game plan.

Although these types of wholesale clothing businesses fly a little under the radar, that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of them. That’s why you need to have a game plan. Some questions you may want to answer, are:

  1. How and where will I store these items? This issue is very important, but often overlooked.
  2. Exactly what types of product am I interested in? Which suppliers specialise in this?
  3. Are people currently buying the products I have in mind?
  4. How will I cover the costs of my purchase?
  5. Which marketplaces will I sell my products through?

Before I go any further, I want to elaborate on something as it’s a really important point.

These types of suppliers tend to attract very internet-savvy, experienced retailers. This means they’re well-versed on the right channels to sell through, and have already established their presence on the most popular platforms.

And if you’re thinking that working with this type of wholesale clothing supplier is your way to get out of getting the correct permits, don’t be fooled – it’s not. You still need to have the right paperwork in place before the large majority of liquidation wholesalers will agree to work with you. We covered what you need in Chapter 2 of this ebook.

2. Decide your budget in advance

Liquidated products are often sold in pallets or lots. So unlike other types of wholesale businesses, where it’s possible to negotiate MOQ. When buying closeout or liquidated stock it’s important to remember you’re purchasing a large number of items, and what you see is what you get.

3. Research the liquidation suppliers

If you’re going to bid on a lot of wholesale clothing for your online store, you want to make sure that you know as much about the liquidation vendor as possible. Make sure you research for reviews from others who have used these suppliers before.

One way to do this is to join some of the many Facebook groups and online forums where the conversation is fast, engaging, and up to date.

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In this article you’ll see reviews for several of the most popular wholesale liquidation companies.

5.7 How To Buy Safely and Quickly From Wholesale Directories

Wholesale directories can be a quick and efficient way to shorten your supplier search. But with so many directories out there, it can be hard to know which ones are legit and worth the investment.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you sign up for a wholesale directory:

  • What’s the fee to join? Is it a one-time payment or monthly commitment?
  • Can I communicate easily with the suppliers in the directory?
  • What’s the average MOQ of the suppliers within the directory? Do they work with the little guy?
  • What’s the word on the street about the directory? What do people think about the suppliers within it? Make sure to check the reviews.

If there’s a vendor you’re considering but not sure of, try and jump on the phone with them.

When it comes to making payment to your chosen vendor, you can find some great tips about making payments in Chapter 3. The bottom line is you do need to do your due diligence, even with vendors you find in directories.

Related Content: How To Combat Cross Border Currency Fluctuations

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