Finding the right suppliers of products to sell on your online store can be difficult and time-consuming. How do you know what to trust or where to start your search?
Luckily, wholesale vendor and supplier directories can help make your search simpler.
These directory websites list thousands of wholesale vendors, allowing merchants to browse the best suppliers and their product offerings in one place.
Some of these websites are completely free to use, while others require merchants to pay a fee to gain access.
Depending on your budget, a free directory may be ideal in the beginning. However, paid directories often research and vet their suppliers, listing only reputable ones.
We’ve done some of the work for you here, so you can get on with the work of building and scaling your store.
In this post, we'll cover:
Let's cover the basics first, then dig into how you can find the best suppliers for your online store.
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Wholesale selling is extremely popular and has experienced month-over-month growth in sales since May 2020.
In fact, in June 2021, total wholesaler sales in the United States amounted to $588.13 billion USD alone. Quite the chunk of change!
But what exactly is wholesale?
Wholesale is when a business buys products in bulk to sell them to various retailers or outlets at wholesale prices.
The retailer or outlet will then go on to sell the goods at an increased price. Most wholesale firms work with a large number of retail stores.
Another type of wholesale is when a business manufactures the goods themselves and sells its products directly to retailers.
This is prevalent in the computer industry, like Apple, which sells its goods directly to Best Buy, Walmart, and Target.
With this in mind, we will focus on the former type of wholesale for the rest of the post.
The critical difference between wholesale and retail is that retailers sell the product directly to the end-user—the consumer—and usually in small quantities.
Regular consumers don’t have access to wholesale suppliers and don’t need to buy in bulk anyway (aside from the occasional Costco run).
They will sell the products at a higher price than wholesalers, known as the retail price. This is the price you see when you are perusing the aisles of your local grocery store.
As a business owner, it’s crucial to reduce your overhead costs consistently.
A great way to carry this out is by buying in bulk from wholesale vendors—since the larger number of items you buy from a wholesaler, the less you will pay per individual product.
Delivery costs will also be significantly cheaper in the long run.
More advantages come with buying in bulk—it helps reduce the risk of inventory stockouts, which will prevent your customers from becoming frustrated with your business (happy customers mean a happy business, after all).
In addition, buying from bulk suppliers is environmentally friendly since there will be less packaging, fewer delivery miles, less fuel used, and less pollution will be emitted into the air.
This will appeal to your consumers too as sustainability has become a big trend—with the global green technology and sustainability market size to grow from $11.2 billion in 2020 to $36.6 billion by 2025.
In fact, as of 2020, 45% of consumers were interested in finding brands that were sustainable or environmentally responsible. And 44% of consumers stated that they were interested in brands that supported recycling.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to show your customers that the products you sell products are safe for the environment and your business is committed to making a positive social impact.
Once you’ve decided what products you want to sell, it’s time to find suppliers and wholesaler listings to purchase from.
Luckily, plenty are available, but you will need to vet them to see which is the best for your business.
Let’s look at how you should vet these suppliers.
There is certain information you should be on the lookout for that will help you navigate your way through choosing the best wholesale vendors:
Dropshipping is a business model that allows products to be shipped directly from wholesale vendors to the customer.
When an order is placed through your website, the customer’s order and delivery details are routed to your wholesalers so that they can pack and ship the product—removing the need for your business to fulfill the order themselves.
The process looks like this:
The traditional inventory model is when a business orders from wholesalers, receives the items, stores them in their storage facility, and fulfills the orders themselves when they are placed.
With so many wholesale suppliers for ecommerce available, it can be hard to decide which supplier is the right fit for your business.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when building a wholesale supplier list.
While most wholesale supplier directories vet their suppliers, you’ll want to do your own research. Make sure a supplier you’re looking to work with is reputable and reliable.
Search for reviews on a supplier online and see what other merchants are saying about them.
Type “[supplier name] + scam” into Google to check if there are any negative reports on a particular supplier.
When looking into a supplier, you’ll want to find out as much as you can about them, their products, and the way they do business.
Make sure to inquire about shipment and payment terms, shipping costs, and delivery time, as well as any other information you might need.
In case you run into an issue with ordering or receiving a shipment, you’ll want someone from the supplier’s company to help you as soon as possible.
This makes it crucial that you opt for a supplier that has great customer support.
When evaluating a supplier, check how easy it is to reach their customer support team. Do they offer 24/7 support? Are they available on multiple channels, including email, phone, and live chat?
Make sure your new supplier will be there for you whenever you need them.
You want your supplier to be knowledgeable about the products they sell.
If they don’t have an extensive understanding of their product lines, they won’t have the best idea of the quality of their products.
If a supplier sells tens of thousands of products in dozens of different categories, they can’t know everything about all the types of products they sell.
A supplier that specializes in selling a particular type of product, on the other hand, will often have extensive knowledge of their products.
Price, MOQs, and shipping terms aren’t set in stone.
Most suppliers have some wiggle room to accommodate serious merchants that might become long-term customers.
Brush up on your negotiation skills before contacting a supplier and then negotiate better terms for your order.
At worst, you’ll get the same terms as everyone else. At best, you’ll get a much better deal, saving you money and allowing you to get a better return on your investment.
Obtaining a product sample from a wholesale vendor that you are interested in purchasing from should be a top priority.
By doing so, you’ll know if the supplier meets your expectations, and you won’t be stuck with a large number of products that you can’t sell.
When you ask wholesale vendors for customer references, they should be open and willing to provide them to you.
Ideally, the references should be from customers that the supplier has worked with within the past year so that you can gain accurate insights into the current state of their operations.
Here are eight online wholesale supplier directories you can use to find new suppliers for your ecommerce business.
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Alibaba was founded in 1999 to help buyers find products and suppliers quickly and efficiently.
Today, it’s the biggest online directory of wholesale suppliers—and had 779 million annual active customers in 2020.
With millions of products spanning over 40 major categories, it offers the most varied assortment of wholesale products out of all wholesale directories.
While Alibaba is a Chinese company, it lists suppliers from all over the world in over 190+ countries and regions. With so many different products and suppliers available on the platform, buyers must do their due diligence before placing an order.
Alibaba makes this easy by giving users a quick way to gauge the trustworthiness of a particular bulk supplier through their transaction history, on-time delivery rate, response time, ratings, and reviews.
When searching for products to buy on Alibaba, make sure you filter your search with these options:
Alibaba offers buyers a few different ways to pay, and most suppliers provide one or more of them:
There are a couple of issues you need to keep in mind if you’re doing business with an Alibaba supplier.
For instance, since most suppliers on the platform are Chinese companies, you may experience a noticeable language barrier.
This can be overcome by focusing on using simple English and restating your needs and intentions in more than one way every time you communicate with a supplier.
There are also many middlemen on Alibaba who try to pose as wholesale manufacturers, reselling goods from legitimate manufacturers while marking up prices.
However, if you adequately research suppliers, you shouldn’t have a problem avoiding them.
Price: Free to purchase from their directory of suppliers
Customer service: 24/7 chatbot, email, and phone number
Recommended for: Small to large-sized businesses
DHgate is another popular Chinese wholesale vendor directory. Founded in 2004, it’s one of the biggest wholesaler marketplaces in the world.
Over 1.7 million registered suppliers sell their products on DHgate—creating a marketplace that offers over 7.7 million online products in 27 plus categories.
Many suppliers on DHgate have lower minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirements than those on Alibaba, which suits buyers with more moderate budgets.
DHgate also displays reviews for each supplier to help make it easier to choose one that is reputable.
The platform has put in place a feedback system, and you should focus on the following metrics for each wholesale vendor:
This will help you distinguish the type of suppliers with a very low number of disputes, offer fast shipping, have high annual sales volumes, and consistently receive positive reviews.
DHgate also offers its own version of Buyer Protection, which keeps your money in escrow until you confirm you’ve received your order.
The biggest issue with DHgate is the considerable number of counterfeit products on the platform. Most branded goods you see on the platform will be replicas, so do your due diligence.
Price: Free to purchase from their directory of suppliers
Customer service: Can be contacted via email, but it may take some time to get a response—they also have a chatbot
Recommended for: Businesses who want to order small quantities of products
Worldwide Brands (WWB) is one of the oldest and most popular wholesale supplier directories on the Internet. It contains more than 8,000 suppliers and 16 million products.
All the suppliers in the directory undergo a strict verification process before they can be listed:
The directory is updated every week, with new products and suppliers being added all the time.
You can search the vendor directory by product keyword, supplier location, or brand name, which allows you to find exactly the types of products you need. WWB also has an iPhone and Android app, enabling you to look for suppliers on the go.
It costs $299 to gain lifetime access to Worldwide Brands. After purchasing a membership, you get access to all the suppliers in the directory, the community forum, customer support, and comprehensive ecommerce educational materials.
The lifetime access fee can be paid in one lump sum or three monthly installments. Paying in installments ends up being a bit more expensive at $319 total.
All suppliers have their profile on WWB, which shows their contact information, shipping policy, product catalog, and payment terms.
Many suppliers listed in Worldwide Brands have very low MOQs, making WWB an excellent choice for merchants looking to purchase wholesale for a small business.
If you’re not satisfied with your Worldwide Brands membership, you can cancel within 60 days and receive a full refund if you purchase with a one-time payment.
Price: One-time payment of $299 for lifetime access or three monthly installments for a total of $319
Customer service: The support team responds quickly, and current customers have left good reviews. They can be contacted via email and always respond within 48 hours
Recommended for: Small to medium-sized retailers, home businesses, and online merchants
New Zealand-based SaleHoo is a wholesale supplier directory launched in 2005.
While certainly smaller than Alibaba and DHgate, it still lists more than 8,000 suppliers and provides access to more than 2.5 million different products.
Unlike Alibaba and DHgate, SaleHoo requires users to pay a fee to access its database of vendors. It’s an annual fee of $67 per year, or you can pay $127 to gain lifetime access to the directory.
SaleHoo guarantees to refund you within 60 days if you decide the platform isn’t suitable for your needs.
The platform vets and verifies every supplier and their products to ensure authenticity and legitimacy—making the yearly or lifetime fee well worth it.
SaleHoo suppliers offer genuine branded products from Disney, Sony, Victoria’s Secret, Esprit, and Bosch. Another advantage to SaleHoo is that most of its suppliers have significantly lower MOQs than those on Alibaba and DHgate.
SaleHoo offers support via live chat, telephone, and email to help you with any questions, issues, or concerns that might arise while using the platform.
There’s also a community forum where users can ask questions and discuss different aspects of ecommerce. Additionally, SaleHoo provides training and educational materials for its users, focused on ecommerce, wholesale and dropshipping.
All in all, SaleHoo is a good choice for merchants who lack the experience or the time to vet suppliers on their own, are OK with having a smaller assortment of products to choose from.
Price: There is an annual fee of $67, or you can pay $127 to gain lifetime access
Customer service: Known to have great customer support. They can be contacted via email or chatbot
Recommended for: eBay sellers and other online traders
Relatively smaller than others on the list, Inventory Source provides access to over 4000 suppliers. However, most of Inventory Source’s vendors have extensive product catalogs—its US direct service offers 200,000 products from top USA suppliers alone.
The products span 29 categories, including wholesale clothing, electronics, books, sporting goods, and pet supplies. It would be a great source for finding the best wholesale clothing vendors.
It’s completely free to browse the directory, look at all the different suppliers and check out their products.
If you need automated features, such as inventory sync and one-click order processing, you’ll need to opt for one of Inventory Source’s paid plans:
Inventory Source is an excellent choice for merchants looking to automate order fulfillment and don’t mind paying a monthly fee to do it.
Price: Inventory Automation costs $99 per month, and Full Automation costs $199 per month
Customer service: They provide 24/7 customer email support and have an additional live chat option where you can connect with someone from their support staff. They also offer scheduled calls to help answer any questions
Recommended for: Ecommerce stores that are already somewhat successful
Founded in November 1970, Global Sources has been connecting buyers with verified suppliers for over 50 years.
They first started with publishing magazines with one goal in mind: to help bring manufacturers and overseas importers together. The magazines are now published digitally and can be found on their website.
Today, Global Sources has over 4.3 million items in 22 product categories sold by more than 196,000 wholesale vendors.
The majority of their wholesale vendors are from mainland China, with a few based in other countries across the globe.
One feature that sets them apart from other top wholesale websites is that Global Sources runs trade shows, and many of their online retail vendors participate in these.
They also find new suppliers at their trade shows who haven’t yet transitioned to becoming wholesalers online and encourage them to do so.
This means that you may find wholesale vendors on Global Sources that can’t be found elsewhere.
Price: Free to purchase from their directory of suppliers
Customer service: They can be contacted via email and telephone
Recommended for: A wide range of buyers from Amazon private label sellers, eBay private sellers to other online merchants
Wholesale Central was founded in 1996, and its headquarters is in the USA.
It’s free to browse and purchase from their wholesale vendors. However, you can access even more small business wholesale suppliers by using their premium service—which can be accessed by providing your email address.
Wholesale Central adds verified wholesale distributors, importers, manufacturers, and wholesalers lists daily to its database.
Its website has a very easy-to-navigate user interface, and there is a “Deals & Steals” section where you can find promotions that Wholesale Central has approved.
Additionally, complaints made against online wholesalers are reviewed—and if they are found to be fraudulent—the wholesale vendor in question will be removed from the website.
Price: Free to purchase from their directory of suppliers
Customer service: Contact the company directly via a form on their website or call them on the phone number they have provided
Recommended for: Small to medium-sized businesses
Tundra was launched in 2017 by husband and wife Arnold and Katie. It’s home to 1,000 plus unique brands and has over one million products.
They stock well-known and large brands like Mattel, Burts Beeswax, Moleskine, and Mrs. Meyer's. Suppliers of wholesale products have to apply to be listed on Tundra’s website.
To purchase from Tundra, you will need to prove that you are affiliated with a business or organization. They also have a range of shipping options to choose from and ship to 206 countries with fast delivery.
The wholesale store has a zero fee and commission model to ensure that its buyers get its entire range of products for the most affordable prices.
Brands with a Gold Badge on Tundra indicate that buyers will get their products at the lowest price online.
The company itself earns its profits through offering advertising services to wholesale vendors.
Price: Free to use but buyers can purchase expedited shipping, insurance, and prepaid duties and taxes for international orders at checkout
Customer service: Tundra can be contacted via email and phone
Recommended for: Independent retailers and business owners that want to purchase from US and Canadian brands at low prices
Spending less on certain expenses can help maximize your business's profit margin and scale your ecommerce store.
The perfect way to do this is through buying in bulk from legit wholesale vendors.
First, you must find the best wholesale websites and then do your due diligence by analyzing the vendors that sell the products you’re interested in purchasing.
Once you’ve established a good working relationship with them—the entire process will be seamless, leaving room for your online business to expand even more.
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Michelle Deery is a writer and strategist for B2B SaaS companies. She writes content that helps brands convert visitors into paying customers.