Chapter 6

How To Buy Anything and Everything From Wholesalers Online

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In this section of the guide, we’ll look at how you can skill up and increase your success when buying products from wholesalers online and in person.

Here are the industries we’ll look at:

  • Wholesale women’s clothing and wholesale dresses
  • Men’s wholesale clothing
  • Wholesale baby clothes
  • Wholesale tshirts
  • Wholesale jewelry
  • Wholesale name-brand clothing

Now, before we dive into each of these industries, let’s talk about how to negotiate like a boss.

First, we’ll look at some best practices if you’re working with US  or UK wholesale businesses. Then, I’ll give you some insider tips on how to establish a great relationship and strike a great deal with Chinese and South East Asian wholesalers.

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6.1 Negotiating With European or North American Wholesale Vendors

Some of the tips I’m about to share below can really be applied when dealing with any type of vendor in any country. That being said, I want to highlight some tips for negotiating with European or North American Wholesale suppliers specifically.

Bradley Day – Helm Boots

First thing, make sure that you’re entering into a partnership, not a transactional relationship.  The days are gone where the relationship consists of accounts buying and brands selling. Make sure you’ve got a partner on the other side of the table that’s going to help you introduce people and showcase your brand in a way that’s consistent with your brand value.

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  1. Do your research – understand the marketplace and who the key players are
  2. Initiate the relationship respectfully – treat others how you want to be treated
  3. Come prepared and be ready to ask the right questions
  4. Be clear about your goals and growth plan
  5. Try and make it a win-win situation – be a pleasure to work with
 Expert Tip: How much of a discount you get is based on factors like how hot the item is, the wholesaler’s cost, and how many you’re buying. 

 

6.2 Negotiating With Chinese and Asian Wholesale Vendors

Doing business in the China wholesale market, especially if you’re strictly working with wholesalers online, is a skill and an art form all in itself. In fact, there seems to be an unspoken yet non-negotiable process that in place – especially when doing large orders in person.

Whether you plan to travel to China and visit your wholesale vendor in person, or not, it’s always a good idea to have an overview of the sort of cultural and business differences that can impact the business relationship.

– Emotional intelligence

Silence or delay is a tactic often used in Chinese negotiations. This can either mean you’re being unreasonable, and they don’t have the energy to go back and forth with you. Or, what you’re asking for they don’t have or can’t do.

Bradley Day – Helm Boots

Be honest in transparent with what you’re trying to accomplish with the partnership and don’t think about it in regards to winning and losing.  In turn, most likely the buyer/account will operate in the same good faith and everyone accomplishes what they want, a healthy partnership that makes everyone more money.  In addition, don’t be too short sided in the things that you ask for.

 

You’ll find ‘I can’t’ isn’t a phrase Chinese wholesale suppliers like to use. Even if the truth is that they can’t.

– Ego and bragging

Vendors want to know they’re engaging with a legit business with a growth plan who will go on to become a valuable customer. This is is especially true for wholesalers online who may never meet you in person. Be confident, but humble.

The Chinese are not necessarily concerned with your big achievements. They are, however, interested in who you’ve done business with or have connections with, as the business culture is very much about your personal relationships.

– Patience and rapport

It’s easy to get frustrated with the pace of transactions when buying products from global suppliers who you only interact with digitally.

Their way of doing things and thinking can often be different to what you’re used to. And there’s a much higher emphasis on how peope feel about you personally.

Don’t forget or be afraid to follow up. But, equally importantly, don’t let your irritation at the time you have to wait, show. It won’t actually help or change anything, and I’ve discovered this the hard way.

If you hit a wall when working with wholesalers online, I’ve found the best way to speed things up is to jump on the phone, repeatedly throughout the day, if need be.

How To Find and Shortlist Chinese Wholesale Suppliers

– Consider working with a Chinese translator.

Negotiations in a completely different language than the one you speak make it all the more likely you won’t walk away with a great deal. You can hire translators by the hour, and I’m of the opinion they’re a sound investment.

– Make sure you register your patent in China BEFORE you approach factories.

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Even so, that doesn’t guarantee your intellectual property is safe, as some inventors quickly discover. Check out what happened to the founder of Stikbox after using the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, to raise £34k+ to fund manufacturing of his new innovative invention.

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Within weeks, he found wholesalers online selling his new product on Alibaba at a fraction of the price. This was despite having the correct patents pending.

In fact, some of the copycats hadn’t even bothered to change the name. The backers of the project were miffed that not only did they have to wait, they also paid twice as much.

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– Make your introductory email clear and concise.

See my recommendations on how to craft the perfect outreach email to your wholesale supplier in Chapter 3.

– Do a ‘digital’ factory check.

Make sure to clarify the warehouse address, check license numbers, email address etc. Research and verify as much as you can. It’s even possible to hire a consultant to do a ground and quality assurance check before your order ships.

– Follow up after two or three days.

In my experience, I’ve found that companies who respond quickly when it’s time to process your wholesale order, then snail-like when it’s time to resolve an issue, are problematic.

This type of company shouldn’t be kept as a business partner for longer than necessary.

– Ask upfront whether they manufacture the project, or whether they’re the wholesalers of the product.

There’s a whole segment of middlemen who take advantage of a global marketplace and language barriers to stand in the gap and negotiate your deal. They are not wholesalers or manufacturers; they’re simply intermediary.

The reality is, they rarely if ever get the best deal for you, but only for themselves.

– Speak with someone on the phone.

I mentioned earlier that getting angry and frustrated rarely changes anything when working with the China wholesale market, and definitely not when negotiating with Indian wholesalers.

What I have found to work is, getting on the phone and charming them into doing what needs to be done.

– Don’t act too desperate to get the cheapest deal.

Negotiating with wholesale vendors in Asia is a bit of a dance. They expect you to negotiate, but there is an unspoken rule on how low you can go. Going too low indicates both a lack of respect and an ignorance about their business. They don’t appreciate it.

When you’re negotiating with wholesalers online you don’t have the benefit of eye contact or body language, so your written communication is how they will decide whether to work with you or not.

– Expect to wait at times.

If you’re working with Chinese wholesalers or dropshippers, you really need to be aware of local and national holidays, and expect delays around those times. Make sure you’re ahead of ordering your inventory needs during holiday periods.

In my experience, it can actually become a pain trying to get hold of Chinese wholesalers online during these times.

– Always have a plan B and C.

Wholesale suppliers can be in your life and working with your business for decades. And they can come and go in an instant.

That being said, it’s really important that you have other supply options sourced out, especially for your best selling products. Things can and will go wrong, so prepare for it.

– Ask to review the logistics paperwork.

I’d advise you to do this before your shipment is sent. You’ll find it’s much easier to avoid and solve problems with your order before delivery, than it is after.

– Look after your suppliers.

Good, honest, reliable suppliers are not always the easiest to come by, so once you’ve found those vendors invest a little time and money in nurturing that relationship.

This is especially true for wholesalers whom you never get the chance to meet in person.

Chinese New Year gifts and Christmas cards make you standout as most retailers don’t bother – especially not the smaller ones.

– Renegotiate – but not too soon!

As I mentioned earlier in this guide there’s an expectation from many wholesale businesses that you will negotiate. In my experience, that process tends to go a lot more smoothly once I’ve made a few larger purchases successfully.

– Always order samples. Always. No exceptions. Ever.

Remember what I said about never selling your customers anything you’d be unhappy to purchase yourself? If you’re dropshipping, always purchase samples.

And before you break out the credit card and buy 100 dresses which don’t fit and are see-through across the bust, make sure you order a sample.

 Expert Tip: Ask your wholesale vendor what their best performing products are in terms of sales and repeat orders – it might actually surprise you what’s hot. 

 

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6.3 Buying Wholesale Women’s Clothing

In this section I’m excited to share some of my top tips for finding high quality boutique wholesale clothing, both online and in person.

Let’s start with dresses, as finding a reliable fashion wholesale supplier can be hit or miss, and that’s mainly down to one or two things.

  1. The sizing, as products normally run smaller
  2. The quality, as the fabric and finish might be cheaper than expected

You may not experience these issues as much when buying wholesale dresses from US or European vendors, as they have similar sizing.

But when you buy dresses from suppliers in China or other Asian countries, then it’s totally normal for sizes to run small. This is why, even though wholesale dress samples are expensive, it’s really important that you suck up the cost and order them.

In the long run, this is an investment as once you place your order of wholesale dresses from your vendor, it’s pretty much ‘sold as seen’ and getting a refund can be a nightmare. There are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through.

And don’t forget, if you send your customer inferior products from your wholesale supplier, you’ll also be dealing with tons of returns and refunds – not fun at all.

I go by the mindset that I should never sell someone a product I wouldn’t be happy to buy myself. You should too.

 Expert Tip: Don’t forget to wash the dress sample to see how well it handles laundering. 

 

Related Content: Chinese Clothing Size Charts

6.4 Buying Mens Wholesale Clothing

I’ve found when it comes to buying mens wholesale clothing, you have to be even clearer about your niche than you do with womenswear.

Yes, we’re in the digital age and ecommerce is one of the fast growing industries – with no signs of slowing down. But from my research, I’ve also found that the majority of men tend to shop a little differently to women – both online and in-person.

And depending on the age of man you’re targeting, they may not even be that familiar with buying clothes online. So how do you curate a cool collection of men’s fashion for your online store?

Get clear about what type of man you’re dressing

  1. How old is he? What does he do for a living? Where does he buy his clothes now?
  2. Does he like investment pieces, or low cost, high turn around fashion?

Before you go out and spend a large amount of money on inventory, make sure you know what type of man it’s for.

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Can you access the quality of men’s wholesale clothing your ideal man wants?

As we covered in other parts of this guide, the quality of men’s wholesale clothing can be questionable. This is especially when working with the Chinese marketplace to source low cost fashion.  

As a woman, I personally have found it’s much easier for me to get away with a poorly fitted item made from sub-par fabric than it is for a man. Hair, accessories, makeup, all help to pull the look together. While for men, each piece stands out and is noticed.  

I have a hunch that this makes the average male shopper a little less price-sensitive, as they tend to value quality over quantity.

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So when you’re buying mens wholesale clothing online, make sure you order samples before you place your first large order. This will help you avoid investing in sub-par clothing and ending up with a garage full of poor quality men’s clothing that you can’t even give away.

Ask questions about sizing – and measure samples

Depending on where you plan to order your men’s wholesale clothing from, you may need to factor in some sizing discrepancies. Some of the better wholesalers are very upfront about how their sizing differs from traditional US or UK sizing.

These types of wholesalers want to keep you as a customer, and reduce answering the same question and dealing with endless returns and complaints.

Others won’t say a thing! So, it really is down to you to make sure you’re buying clothing that fits the men you plan to sell to.

Expert Tip: If you’re buying trousers don’t forget to check seams, zips, buttons. These are normally the areas which fall apart first.

 

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6.5 Buying Wholesale Baby Clothes

it comes to buying wholesale baby clothes, new and established retailers are naturally more concerned about the quality of the product. This is especially true if they contain things that come off like buttons, zips, pom-poms, sequins etc, as this may make the item unsafe.

My best advice for buying wholesale baby clothes, is to be really hyper vigilant when it comes to doing your due diligence. And always make sure you have the right liability insurance in place.c

There’s something unique about the baby clothing industry. It’s one of the few industries that hasn’t been affected by changes in the global economy. In fact, it’s one of the most lucrative segments of the apparel industry. This might explain why so many new online retailers are attracted to this space.

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So, when looking for credible suppliers of wholesale baby clothes you really must remove your seller hat, and put yourself into the mindset of the buyer – the parent.

How to buy wholesale baby clothing

Things to consider and factor in:

  • What’s the fabric like? Is it soft and suitable to go up against a babies skin? Children are naturally more sensitive to rough or chemically treated fabrics, so make sure you select products that are made safely.
  • What type of dye is being used? Some cheaper dyes are quite toxic and can cause reactions in young children.
  • Is there some give/stretch in the fabric? Small children tend to spend a lot of time in rompers, but as any mother knows they can go to bed one size, and wake up another.
  • What time in a child’s life are you catering to? A newborn needs slightly different things than an 8-year-old kid. Who is your ideal baby customer ?
  • What are others saying about this supplier? When it comes to children, people tend to be very vocal about their dissatisfaction – so check out those customer review forums I mentioned in Chapter 3.
Expert Tip: Pure cotton is the preferred fabric of choice for children, especially those under three years old. 

 

The final tip I have to help you successfully buy wholesale baby clothing is to carefully consider any text on the item.

If a company like H&M with their team of buyers and lawyers can make an error which becomes a viral nightmare, then so can you.

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Related Content: Luxury Kids Clothes Trend

6.6 Buying Wholesale T-shirts

There are a couple of different ways and places you can buy wholesale T-shirts either for resell, or as blanks for your own designs. But just like with women’s wholesale dresses, this can be hit and miss as all t-shirts are not created equal.

And let’s be honest, selling poorly cut t-shirts made out of low quality fabric is a sure fire way to tank your t-shirt line –  fast!

Where to buy wholesale t-shirts online and what to look out for

– Wholesale T-shirt marts

Many cities have local wholesale t-shirt marts which function almost like liquidation closeout sales, but they are a lot more accessible to the little guy.

– Printing shops

Many t-shirt printing shops have great relationships with t-shirt wholesalers that you maybe able to benefit from. Some will offer to connect you, but if they don’t then don’t be afraid to ask.

– Specialist T-shirt wholesalers

There are vendors who sell t-shirts nothing more and nothing less. They have a large range of sizes, colours, fabrics, cuts and brands.

– What’s the reputation of the t-shirt blank brand you’re buying?

A good way to find out which t-shirt brands are high quality, is to check which brands print on demand (POD) companies are using.

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As they are sending out items direct to the customers, they benefit from massive pricing breaks due to the amount of wholesale t-shirts they’re buying.

They don’t want to deal with their customer (you) sending back returns and demanding refunds, so they tend to gravitate towards better quality brands by default.

– What’s the color and style selection?

Is your brand all about bold primary colors, or muted, chic nudes? Does your wholesale T-shirt supplier have a range of colors and styles that fit your brand and your audience?

– How accurate is their sizing?

I used to work with one brand (I won’t name ‘em) and found that their women’s T-shirts where always better quality than their men’s, especially when it came to accurate sizing.

Look for the sizing charts that each brand offers to make sure you’re picking the right size for your audience.

– What are the key features of the t-shirt style?

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Is it a v-neck, no seam, ribbed collar?

All t-shirts are not created equal, and different styles are popular and hot at different times. Also, when looking at T-shirts online it’s not always clear to see the main characteristics in the picture. That’s why you need to get the product in your hands.

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6.7 Buying Wholesale Jewelry and Jewelry-Making Supplies

Buying wholesale jewelry and wholesale jewelry supplies is something I have a lot of experience in, especially overseas.

Most of my buying was done in person from smaller stores who sell retail supplies to the hobby jewelry maker and wholesale to the retailer. The wholesale jewelry suppliers that I use also do sampling and assembly, they are truly a one-stop-shop.

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But whether buying pre-made jewelry pieces or wholesale jewelry supplies, there are a few best practices that will help you get quality products at a reasonable price.

You’ll still need to factor in minimum order quantities when buying wholesale jewelry. Interestingly, I’ve found these to be a bit less than when it comes to wholesale fashion.

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 Expert Tip: Partner with other jewelry designers to buy basics like findings, filling pieces, wire, clasps – together. Unlike fashion, you’re all creating different things with your wholesale jewelry supplies, so there’s no conflict of interest. 

 

Gold, silver, gold plated – what’s your jewelry made of? Have you tested it?

Buying precious materials, especially gold or stones needs to be done with a level of caution and research. There’s a big difference between solid gold, rose gold, and gold plated. But if you’re not careful and don’t know what to look for, it’s very easy to get sold fake gold.

Gold jewelry will nearly always carry a hallmark and if it doesn’t, say with large gold hoop earrings, your wholesaler should be able to prove authenticity.

The same advice applies to buying wholesale silver. I’ve purchased lots of silver jewelry from Turkey, and from my experience you really need to stress test everything.

Why?

Well, I’ve had many styles break on me, from delicate necklaces to thick chunky rings. That’s not to say there aren’t some fabulous silver jewelry vendors out there. You just need to be prepared to search for them.

You also need to be on the lookout for wholesale suppliers who will happily sell you gold plated jewelry when you thought you were buying real solid gold. What you’re really getting is a cheaper material, like copper, dipped in gold plating.

Pearls and gemstones: buyer beware!

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Derived from shellfish, authentic pearls are classic accessories which will always have an audience of buyers. That being said, with so many fake pearls and pearl jewelry on the market it’s very easy to get duped if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The same applies for gemstones. Amber, jasper sapphire, ruby, all desirable stones which while not cheap, won’t break the bank.

The problem is, these types of gemstones are pretty easy to manufacture and imitate, and there are many unscrupulous jewelry suppliers who have no qualms in selling you fakes.

I’ve fallen foul of this more than once buying gemstones and other wholesale jewelry supplies from Jaipur in India.

 Expert Tip: Hardware suppliers can be a great place to buy wire, pliers, and other craft suppliers in large quantities. 

 

Buy wholesale jewelry at trade shows

We covered some of the best tips for attending wholesale trade shows here, and the best thing is, these same tips apply for attending trade shows within the jewelry industry. And just like attending trade shows for wholesale clothing, you can still take advantage of lots of additional benefits from being there in-person, like the expert roundtables.

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6.8 Buying Wholesale Name Brand Clothing

Truthfully, I don’t recommend starting your ecommerce journey by buying and reselling wholesale name brand clothing straight off the bat. This is one particular area of ecommerce that can be tricky.

But if you’re going to buy wholesale name brand clothing, then you need to know what to look for and what to avoid.

1. If it seems too good/cheap to be true, then it probably is!

High-end designers have a retail price that they sell for in their store, and when you buy their wholesale products there can be some rules around what they allow you to resell for to ensure the brand isn’t cheapened.

So if you find a wholesaler selling current season designer items for less than 50% of retail, then this is a red flag.

2. How much product are you able to buy at once?

Part of the cache of designer clothing is about the exclusivity. This is why they place limits on how many pieces people can buy retail, and have long waiting lists for really popular items.

If you’re able to buy huge quantities of designer items from your suppliers, this may be an indication that the products are coming from a non-legitimate source. And trust me when I tell you that some of these factories producing fakes do just as good a job as those producing the original.

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3. How respectable is the source?

Scoring a distribution deal with a luxury label is pretty tough, but also very lucrative. So you’ll find that those who have the proper contracts are not going to risk that in order to sell you 50 pairs of designer jeans.

Check the paperwork.

You want to make sure they can prove the originality of their products, and that they are authorised to wholesale to you. While you can get access to certain designers like Calvin Klein at wholesale prices – especially at liquidation. It’s not as easy to access designers like Chanel and Balmain, and with good reason.

In my opinion the quickest and safest way to get quality and authentic wholesale name brand clothing is from using a verified overstock or closeout wholesale vendor.

6.9 How Much Wholesale Clothing Inventory Should I Buy?

I can’t speak for you, but this has been one the toughest challenges for me. You want to make sure that you’re buying enough wholesale products that you’re able to meet the demands of your customers. But at the same time, you don’t want to have so much inventory on board that your supply far outstrips your demand.

Expert tip: Many times I have seen new sellers spending their entire budget on a first order only to be left unable to restock the hot sellers quickly enough, this is particularly important when selling on platforms such as Amazon where listings are hidden, and can lose their rankings when out of stock. 

 

With that in mind, answering this question is like asking how long is a piece of string. Yeah, totally not helpful, I get it. That’s why I want to share with you a few guidelines I use when buying inventory for a brand new line.

It’s important to mention that this is a very tentative approach designed to help me test my idea in the marketplace at the lowest cost with the least risk. And it’s not the same approach I would recommend when scaling your business.

Expert Tip: Make sure you’re prepared if/when the floodgates open! Once you find a product that is super popular, it’s important to make sure you have a mechanism in place to deal with the demand.

 

This type of supply chain management is a very different state of affairs, than getting your hands on a sample or pilot purchase to see whether you’re able to sell it for a profit, or not.

So what questions do you need to ask yourself?

– Do I already have an audience of people to sell this product to?

Depending on when you’re open for business, or just starting out you need to consider whether or not you have an audience to launch and promote these products to once you’ve purchased them.

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There are different places to build your audience and your influence, personally, I prefer to build my email list over every other platform.

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Related Content: How To Create Your Email Subscriber List

– Do I have the space/resources to hold on to this stock?

It’s very easy to lose your mind and starting buying up the joint as soon as your wholesaler account is approved. But you need to hold your horses and consider where all of these products are going to be stored once the delivery driver leaves.

I still have stock under my bed from failed business ventures where I pulled the purchasing trigger a bit too quickly.

– Does the supplier have a minimum quantity order?

Do I need to meet the wholesale suppliers MOQ before I can make a purchase order, or am I able to buy small samples purchases?

– How quickly can I place a repeat order?

If you’re based in Florida and your shipment is coming from LA, it’s easy to take it for granted you can get your order quickly, and sometimes you can. But you also need to be aware of something called order lead time.

This is how long it takes for the wholesaler to actually make the product or buy from their manufacturer, or pack and ship your items.

As you can see there are a whole bunch of variables that can influence when your purchase order arrives, so make sure you’re clear with your supplier about your specific situation.

– How much inventory – new and old – do I currently have on board?

If this is your very first purchase of wholesale products, you won’t have this worry. But if you’ve been in business for a while or made a few ropey purchases, then you need to have a plan.

– What are the seasonal peaks in my business?

Are there seasonal peaks or high demand for products at certain times of year? Will you have enough stock to cover that peak?

– Do I have the cash flow?

When working with a number of different wholesalers online, it’s easy lose track of exactly how much you’re spending. Make sure you check your cash flow situation. Do you have the funds to pay for your shipment, and then promote it?

– Do I Have the Time To Shoot/List These Items In My Store?

Once your wholesale package arrives, you’ll need to shoot the items, optimise your images and write your product descriptions.

You don’t want items on your website without quality product descriptions and meta tags. Make sure you have the time to create optimised descriptions, or have the ability to hire people to help you.

Related Content: How To Buy High Quality Boutique Wholesale Clothing

So that’s it folks! I know I know, this guide leaves no stone unturned and it’s a hell of a read.

Our goal was to make sure that new and aspiring store owners have a clear understanding of the wholesale market, and to highlight what you need to do to find and buy the right inventory for you, quickly and effectively.

Let us know if we succeeded down in the comments.