What is a Wholesaler 768x427 1

What Exactly is a Wholesaler?

What is a wholesaler? Wholesalers are a middleman between manufacturers and retailers. They provide you with products at low prices, so all you have to worry about is selling them!

What is an example of a Wholesaler?

Many companies in the consumer market purchase and sell products before reaching consumers. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers often buy and sell products before consumers buy them.

The manufacturer is the originator of all consumer goods. Most often, the manufacturer designs and manufactures the product. Because wholesalers have often developed relationships with retailers and distribution channels that manufacturers do not, they sell them. The wholesaler then sells the product directly to the retailer, who can market it and sell it to the end customer.

Top 10 wholesalers in the U.S.

Top U.S. wholesalers according to csnews.com.

Ranking 2012 Company/ Headquarters Latest F.Y. (M$) Locations served Deliveries per week # of warehouses
1 McLane Co. 27,300 39269 48682 20
2 Core-Mark¬†Holding Co. Inc. 8,115 30000 ‚Äď 28
3 Eby-Brown¬†Co 4,500 21000 ‚Äď 7
4 H.T. Hackney Co 4,000 20000 ‚Äď 28
5 GSC Enterprises Inc. 1300 8000 6500 6
6 Farner-Bocken Co. 1200 ‚Äď ‚Äď 1
7 Harold Levinson Associates Inc. 1200 15000 15000 1
8 Imperial/Harrison Super regional 1,025 2950 3120 4
9 AMCON Distributing¬†Co. 1004 5000 ‚Äď 6
10 S. Abraham & Sons Inc. 939 3614 3079 2

Chain of Sale Example

This is the typical chain of sales: wholesaler > manufacturer > retailer. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Wholesalers like Sam’s Club or B.J.’s buy their products directly from the manufacturers. Because the products were bought cheaper, wholesalers can sell them cheaper than retailers. Wholesalers don’t need to maintain retail stores or incur marketing expenses. They choose to sell from a warehouse rather than a flashy retail store. This is why warehouses are called Sam’s Club or B.J.’s.

Apple Computer is another exception. Apple manufactures computers and electronic devices and then sells them directly at their retail stores. Apple does not use wholesalers or retailers. It does both.

McLane and Company, What is a Wholesaler
McLane and Co. is the largest wholesaler in the U.S.

What’s the difference between wholesalers and retailers?

Two distribution arrangements that make up a large part of the supply chain are wholesale and retail. Wholesale refers to selling merchandise in large quantities. Retail stands for selling merchandise in smaller quantities.

After the goods have been manufactured, they are sold in large quantities (wholesale) to wholesalers. These wholesalers then sell them to retailers who sell them to their final customers.

What’s the difference between wholesalers and distributors?

Distributors search for wholesalers that will resell their products.¬†Wholesalers work closely with retailers to meet their needs by buying bulk products at a discounted price.¬†A distributor may be actively involved in promoting a company’s product, but a wholesaler isn’t.

What is the average Wholesale to Retail Markup?

The average wholesale markup is about 20%. However, some distributors and wholesalers mark up to 40%.¬†Retailers’ markups vary by industry. Most automobiles are marked up between 5-10%, and clothing is often marked up 100%.

How are wholesale goods distributed?

Wholesalers purchase goods from distributors and then pass them on to retailers to be sold to end-users. Wholesale suppliers source the latest products to supply the best goods to retailers. Wholesalers will search for the best-priced products and choose from many distributors and manufacturers when a trend is identified. These products are then sold to retailers by wholesale operators.

Benefits of Being a Wholesaler

  • Save Money
  • Create a network of suppliers
  • Become an expert
  • Expand with Ease

Save money

You can save money by buying bulk products. Wholesale orders get discounts. You can sell more products while getting fewer products. Depending on how much you initially invest, you can gain an advantage over your competitors by buying and selling large quantities.

Create a network of suppliers

Wholesalers need to have a strong network of suppliers and manufacturers they can trust.¬†Wholesalers need to depend on their suppliers and manufacturers to deliver their products on time. They also need to be able to honor existing relationships.¬†To ensure your brand’s sustainability and establishment, supplier relationships must be positive and well managed.

Become an expert

You can become an expert by researching and selling products. This knowledge can be used to attract more customers to your online shop and to share information that will assist them in making a purchase. You will gain trust from your customers, regardless of whether you sell car parts, jewelry, and wedding supplies.

Expand with Ease

This expansion will be simple because you already have a brand and relationships with wholesalers. Once you have established a strong foothold in your industry, you’ll start connecting with other markets.¬†These connections can lead to cross-selling and upselling opportunities, which could help your company grow. It will be much easier to start a new venture than to set up.

Different Types of Wholesalers

  • Merchant Wholesalers
  • Brokers
  • Sales and Distribution

Because wholesalers can work in isolation, some work with only one or two producers. It can be challenging to navigate the wholesale market. Wholesale businesses can be classified into one of three types. These are:

Wholesalers for Merchants

This type of wholesale is most popular.¬†Merchant wholesalers purchase larger quantities of products and sell them in smaller quantities at a slightly higher cost.¬†Although merchant wholesalers don’t manufacture their products, they can understand the products and know when it is time to sell them to retailers in different industries.


The products that brokers sell are not their own; instead, they act as an intermediary between wholesale operators and clients. The broker works with a commission structure to negotiate a fair deal between the parties.

Sales and distribution

Instead of waiting for wholesale businesses to find a manufacturer, they could hire people to represent them to wholesalers. A manufacturer could reach out to wholesalers to sell their products, creating customized wholesale deals tailored to each case.

Wholesale Pricing

Wholesale pricing refers to the wholesale price for bulk orders. Wholesale is purchased in bulk so that a manufacturer can offer a substantial discount. This allows wholesalers to make a profit by selling more.

Retail markup refers to the retail price a retailer pays for wholesale products, minus the wholesale price. If a wholesaler buys 500 products at $2,000, each product will cost $4. Wholesalers might sell these products in 50-piece groups to retail outlets for $400 each. Wholesalers will now make a $4 profit on each product, or $2,000 per shipment, as the price has increased to $8 per item. Wholesale is profitable because of this.

What is the difference between a wholesaler, distributor, and retailer?

Before a product reaches its paying customer, it must have traveled a lot.¬†All middlemen are involved in the supply chain. They make this journey possible. The network’s responsibilities and purpose define each role.

A distributor is an independent agent who agrees to sell products to wholesalers and retailers. Manufacturers often restrict distributors. They cannot sell any other product lines or compete for products. However, it all comes down to the industry and the agreement. Distributors typically have a large stock holding and can store goods for one year. A potential buyer will approach a manufacturer to inquire about their products. The distributor chosen becomes the direct contact.

A wholesaler is someone who buys bulk products from distributors and then resells them at wholesale prices to retailers. Wholesalers may specialize in one type of product, such as shoes for women, or have a large stock available to retailers from different industries. 

Distributors are wholesalers that only stock non-competing goods. Wholesalers can break down bulk orders into smaller quantities and assemble the goods. Wholesalers are more likely to store products for a shorter time than distributors. Most often, they can keep them for as long as six months.

Retailers are businesses that make a profit and sell directly to consumers. Retailers make money by buying small quantities of goods wholesale at a low price and then reselling the products at a high price to pay for advertising and other expenses such as rent, staff salaries, and utility bills. A retailer must find a wholesaler that offers the right products and the correct quantity to profit.

Dropshipping vs. Wholesale

Wholesaling allows you to sell and buy whenever you like. You can choose the way you want to sell your products. This is an excellent option for entrepreneurs with sufficient startup capital.

Dropshipping: What is it?

Dropshippers are online retailers becoming increasingly popular with eCommerce entrepreneurs who have little capital. Dropshippers are retailers who don’t own stock but make commissions on orders transferred to wholesale dealers.

This retail fulfillment method has the most significant advantage: you don’t have to own or maintain the stock you are selling. You simply receive a new order and pass it to your wholesale partner, who will ship the products.

They also get a commission. Dropshipping is a hugely dependent model for eCommerce businesses. You need to be careful about selecting the right wholesale supplier.

Both business models offer great opportunities, but they are not suited to all entrepreneurs.

How to start a wholesale business

Many businesses are already active in the global wholesale market. This is even though there has never been a better moment to start. 

With today’s wide range of digital tools, sourcing, marketing, and selling products have never been easier. You need to have the industry knowledge and a few financial resources to start wholesaling. You also need an excellent B2B Marketing plan since you are essentially a business.¬†Here’s how to start a wholesale business.

  1. Choose the wholesale products you want to sell. Wholesaling can include everything, from electronic and mechanical parts to jewelry materials and foods. You can also sell DTC food. Choose a niche that has high demand and offers enough profit potential. While you can expand your product ranges as you grow, starting with a reliable product is essential.
  2. Decide the type of wholesale you are interested in. You’ll sell wholesale goods to consumers if you are a merchant (see D2C meaning). You will be selling to other producers if you are a broker. Both wholesalers and merchants require a different approach.
  3. Target a specific market. Selling to a large market will not work for you. It is essential to find a problem in a larger market. Consider baby clothes as an example. This niche is in high demand, but sellers are already overflowing. However, clothing for babies or upcycled infant clothes could be a great niche.
  4. Find relevant suppliers or manufacturers by searching ‘how to find vendors’.¬†You can browse a¬†wholesale directory.¬†You should ensure that you and the vendor are getting a great deal.¬†You and your customers may not like how some companies trade on the black market.
  5. Completion of all required paperwork.¬†The government will require certain forms to be completed, as it is with all businesses.¬†These documents usually include an eCommerce license, an employer identification number (EIN), a sales tax I.D., and possibly a reseller’s permit.¬†Also, you will need to search¬†how to obtain a wholesale license¬†before applying for it.¬†You can show that you are honest and have a¬†wholesale agreement¬†to prove it if there are any legal issues.
  6. Create a solid wholesale sales and marketing strategy.¬†After all the housekeeping is done, you will need a strategy for getting your brand noticed.¬†This can be achieved by matching your wholesale advertising budget to your marketing efforts.¬†A business just starting shouldn’t spend thousands on advertising and eCommerce-PPC.¬†An alternative approach is low-cost DTC Marketing, such as eCommerce SEO and referrals.
  7. Organize your retail efforts. Wholesalers often sell products in retail shops, which increases visibility and traction. To increase your chances of being a wholesaler, attractive offers are essential. Look for stores that accept new vendors.
  8. Dropshipping is a method of shipping products directly to consumers (DTC). Wholesalers also use materials to make new products sold to customers. The business model you choose will determine your needs. If you require a workspace, you can rent or open one. For wholesaling, it is beneficial to be familiar with warehousing. You should invest in high-quality eCommerce packaging and an ecommerce shipping staff capable of completing the task.

Your wholesale business approach will depend on who you are trying to reach.¬†The sales relationships you build with brokers will be different from those you create with merchants selling products. Let’s take a look at how to sell wholesale products.

How to become a wholesale vendor

Although there are many ways to become wholesale vendors, everyone follows the same path. These are the basics of how to become a wholesale vendor.

  • Find the right products to sell.¬†Many eCommerce experts recommend starting with one product niche and expanding as your business grows.¬†You’ll be competing against dozens of other successful brands that are reaching existing customers.
  • Develop relationships. It can be challenging to break into the vast market of wholesale distributors and vendors, retailers outlets, and customers. Retailers are interested in making a profit. If you can show that your products will help them achieve this goal, they will be more than happy to work with you. It’s essential to get started early.
  • Determine your pricing model.¬†Wholesaling offers more flexibility and higher profit margins.¬†You have the option to sell products in smaller quantities to consumers or to make your products. Or you can sell larger quantities to retailers.¬†You want to make sure you are selling at the right price for your product.¬†Find out what other vendors sell similar products and price your product accordingly.
  • Target your audience.¬†You can sell to consumers or retailers in any market.¬†Identifying the weaknesses of your competition can help you gain an edge, especially if you are a wholesaler.¬†This information can be uncovered by reviewing product reviews, participating in forums, and creating buyer personas.
  • Complete the paperwork. This is not the most exciting part. Business documents are required to become a wholesaler.¬†Geographic location can have an impact on the laws and regulations. Do your research before you start.
  • Establish a minimum order quantity (¬†) Once you gain traction with retailers, many will want to know your MOQ. A high MOQ will generate momentum and encourage frequent orders from retailers.¬†This principle allows you to be profitable and maintain excellent client relationships.
  • Provide competitive deals.¬†Shoppers are used to having many vendors competing for their attention.¬†It takes more than just a high-quality product to make your brand stand out.¬†You don’t want unreasonable requests from retailers.¬†You can incentivize your customers’ business by offering flash sales and bulk orders discounts.

Wholesale Vendor Vs. Whole Sale suppliers

It is important to remember that wholesale suppliers and wholesale vendors are different. Wholesale vendors purchase wholesale goods in bulk and then resell them to consumers or businesses.

Wholesale suppliers sell raw materials or other materials in large quantities to businesses.¬†Suppliers sell only to other companies because they can’t create retail networks for their products. This is their nature.¬†

Let’s look at how to become wholesale suppliers.

  1. Choose the products that you are willing to stand behind. This will help you as a supplier. Prospects will not buy from you if you sell products for a profit. It is better to invest in a niche and be reliable.
  2. As a supplier, you’re in a unique position. You must decide if you will be selling manufactured goods or raw materials. You can either sell materials part of a manufacturing stock or to brokers who deal with retailers. Selling your goods to brokers will allow you to reach more markets quicker.¬†Selling to manufacturers can often result in more significant sales to fewer clients.
  3. Run a healthy budget.¬†While wholesaling can be very affordable, it doesn’t mean that you should abandon caution.¬†It is worth researching the cost of maintaining your¬†raw material inventory¬†first. Don’t forget about labor and indirect costs.¬†Before expanding your catalog, take the time to evaluate your business model.
  4. Establish relationships with wholesalers or distributors. While having a great product is one thing, getting it into the hands of the right people is another.¬†The sooner you establish mutual relationships with your partners, the better.¬†Everyone is interested in your goods and how they can benefit them.¬†You’ll thrive if you can find a problem they have that you can solve.
  5. Value is the key. Wholesale products can vary in quality. Distributors and retailers are well aware of this fact.¬†Although low-cost goods are easy to profit from, that doesn’t necessarily mean that retailers will stock your products.¬†Your products should have a unique functional and market value that sets them apart from other products. Customers will notice your goods¬†when they shop if you have carved out a niche in the supply chain.

To Wholesale and Beyond

Once you’ve learned to become wholesale suppliers, the sky is the limit.¬†You must be patient and diligent in building relationships with retailers and delivering value to customers. Also, you must perfect your¬†eCommerce selling¬†process.¬†Your¬†fill rates¬†will increase as you sell more.

This leads to happier customers. For ways to consolidate your B2B (see B2B meaning) or B2C supply chains, keep an eye on them. Don’t forget to prioritize high-value products.¬†Learn more about wholesaling by reading our¬†wholesale management guide.

A Few Questions to Ask About Becoming a Wholesaler

Being a wholesaler requires planning, financial resources, strong marketing skills, and a lot of hard work. You can find the most frequently asked questions below if you want to know more.

Is it profitable to do wholesale business?

Wholesaling is profitable if there are solid wholesale marketing plans, high-demand products, and an audience ready to buy. Wholesaling includes building your buyer network, offering discounts, purchase incentives, and processing orders quickly. Maintaining profitable minimum order quantities (MOQ) and average order quantities is one of the most significant challenges in wholesaling. 

An MOQ (minimum order quantity) is what a buyer must buy to good a production run. An AOQ (average order quantity) is how many customers have ordered the same product. Wholesale success is possible if you can identify good sales numbers and communicate with your buyers regularly.

Are you able to sell wholesale as a business?

Yes. Yes, as long as you have both a wholesale and retail license, wholesalers can buy wholesale goods from consumers and then sell them to retailers or distributors. A significant profit margin is necessary to be a profitable direct-to-consumer wholesaler. 

Wholesale products typically have a markup of 30-50% for consumers. However, this percentage will vary depending on the marketable price of similar goods. Most consumers prefer wholesalers if they offer lower prices, more excellent value, or both.

Is it worth selling wholesale?

Whether or not a wholesale company is worth it will depend on how you market your business and your approach to sales. With the increasing competition in wholesaling and the ease of purchasing products online, wholesale businesses must be distinctive to succeed.

If you have trustworthy suppliers, a robust customer base, and excellent products, selling wholesale can be a worthwhile venture. These things take time, but it is worth the effort. Start with what you have and build your business relationships every day.

author avatar
Brian Wilson Writer and Editor
Brian Wilson is the content manager and founder of LLC Radar. Brian grew up in North Texas, just outside of Dallas, and has a bachelor's degree in business from Southern Methodist University. Since graduating from SMU, Brian has gained over 10 years of experience in business writing for several online publications. Brian resides in Plano, Texas and he can be reached by email:   info@llcradar.com Phone: 972-776-4050
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