Finding product suppliers for your online store can be difficult and time-consuming. This is where wholesale supplier directories can help.
These directories list thousands of wholesale suppliers, allowing merchants to browse suppliers and their product offerings in one place.
Some of these directories are completely free to use, while others require merchants to pay a fee in order 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.
Let’s take a look at some of the major wholesale suppliers and review best practices for choosing one.
The Best Online Wholesale Supplier Directories for Your Store
Here are five online wholesale supplier directories you can use to find new suppliers for your ecommerce business.
Alibaba was founded in 1999. Today, it’s the biggest online directory of wholesale suppliers. With millions of products spanning 40 different 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. With so many different products and suppliers available on the platform, it’s crucial that buyers 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 supplier through their rating, transaction level, reviews and response rate.
Alibaba categorizes suppliers three ways:
Trade Assurance Suppliers: Most suppliers fall under this category. Alibaba guarantees your products will ship on time and meet the quality standards you agreed upon with the supplier. Otherwise, you’ll get a refund.
Assessed Suppliers: Gold Suppliers that have been inspected by both Alibaba and a third-party inspection company.
The platform also offers a Secure Payment service where Alibaba holds your money in escrow until you confirm you’ve received your order.
As for payment options, most suppliers offer one or more of the following methods:
Letter of credit
There are a couple of issues you need to keep in mind if you’re going to do business with an Alibaba supplier.
For instance, since most suppliers on the platform are Chinese companies, you’ll experience a noticeable language barrier. This can be overcome to an extent 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 a large number of middlemen on Alibaba who try to pose as manufacturers, reselling goods from legitimate manufacturers while marking up prices. However, if you adequately research suppliers, you shouldn’t have a problem avoiding them.
DHgate is another popular Chinese wholesale directory. Founded in 2004, it’s one of the biggest wholesale marketplaces in the world. Thousands of suppliers sell their products on DHgate, creating a marketplace that offers millions of products in dozens of different categories.
A lot of suppliers on DHgate have lower minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirements compared to those on Alibaba, which suits buyers with more moderate budgets. DHgate also displays ratings and reviews for each supplier to help make it easier to choose a reputable one.
The platform distinguishes between two types of suppliers:
Premium Merchants: DHgate selects these merchants based on their sales volume and positive reviews. They have a very low number of disputes and offer fast shipping.
Top Merchants: Among the highest-rated suppliers on the platform, Top Merchants have high annual sales volumes and consistently receive positive reviews. They have very fast response times and offer fast shipping.
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 huge number of counterfeit products on the platform. Most branded goods you see on the platform will be replicas, so do your due diligence.
3. Worldwide Brands
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 Worldwide Brands team attends trade shows to find genuine wholesalers.
Then, they visit the suppliers’ warehouses.
From there, they perform an inspection to ensure they’re legitimate before adding them to the directory.
The directory is updated every week, with new products and suppliers being added all the time. You can search the 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.
All suppliers have their own profile on WWB, which shows their contact information, shipping policy, product catalog and payment terms. A lot of suppliers listed in Worldwide Brands have very low MOQs, making WWB a great choice for merchants who are looking to order smaller quantities of products.
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.
If you’re not satisfied with your Worldwide Brands membership, you can cancel within 60 days and receive a full refund.
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 1.6 million different products.
Unlike Alibaba and DHgate, SaleHoo requires users to pay a fee to access its database of suppliers. There’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 right 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 brands such as Disney, Sony, Victoria’s Secret, Esprit and Bosch. Another advantage to SaleHoo is most of its suppliers have significantly lower MOQs compared to those on Alibaba and DHgate.
SaleHoo offers 24/7 live chat support that can 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 fine with having a smaller assortment of products to choose from and need access to 24/7 support.
5. Inventory Source
Quite smaller than others on the list, Inventory Source provides access to around 200 suppliers across the U.S. and China. However, most of Inventory Source’s suppliers have extensive product catalogs that contain tens of thousands of products, bringing Inventory Source’s product count to over a million. The products span 26 different categories, including apparel, electronics, books, sporting goods and pet supplies.
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 Automation: Costs $99 per month and includes supplier integrations, automatic upload of product data, inventory sync and product feed management tools.
Full Automation: Costs $150 per month and includes everything from the Inventory Automation plan, as well as one-click order processing, multi-supplier order routing, shipment tracking and an order management interface.
Inventory Source is a great choice for merchants that are looking to automate order fulfillment and don’t mind paying a monthly fee to be able to do it.
Best Practices for Choosing a Wholesale Supplier
The wholesale supplier directories listed above provide you with access to a large number of suppliers all over the world. With so many suppliers available, it can be hard to decide which supplier is the right fit for your needs.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a wholesale supplier.
Do Your Own Research
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.
Ask Plenty of Questions
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.
Prioritize Reliable Shipping
No matter how good a supplier's products or prices might be, that won’t mean a thing if they can’t deliver the products on time. Late shipments can result in a loss of sales, an increased number of refund requests and bad customer reviews for your business.
To avoid this, look for a supplier that uses reliable shipping methods, and offers product tracking and automated shipping alerts.
Look for Suppliers With Great Customer Support
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.
Opt for Specialized Suppliers Over Generic Ones
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, it’s impossible for them to be knowledgeable on 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.
Always Try to Negotiate
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 try to 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.
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Boris Mustapic is a writer and content marketing specialist with a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry. Having built his own successful ecommerce business, he likes to share his knowledge with ecommerce enthusiasts. Apart from writing about marketing and ecommerce, Boris also enjoys a good book and a glass of red wine.