Successfully Transitioning from Vendor to Wholesaler
By Meaghan Brophy
Starting a wholesale business can seem like a daunting task. Partnering with the correct manufacturers, organizing warehouse space, and connecting with retail customers is a lot to handle. Luckily for you, vendors and retailers have the upper hand when it comes to breaking into the wholesale industry. David Pomerantz, founder of MysticFireLights, recently expanded his retail business into wholesale. “Starting on the retail level, and already having that experience in the industry makes it a lot easier,” he explains. As a vendor, you likely already have supplier relations, and a grasp on market trends. Follow these tips for a smooth transition into B2B selling:
Consider Your Needs as a Vendor
As a vendor or retailer, you have no doubt interacted with a variety of wholesalers and distributors to source your products. Some you have maintained partnerships with, and others have not made the cut. Think about what makes the ones that lasted great to work with. Or if none of them were exceptional, as a retailer why did you settle? Think about what qualities are most important to you. They are likely important to other vendors, and they will be qualities you want to emulate as a wholesaler.
Build Your Reputation in the Industry
As they say, don’t put the cart before the horse. It is true that growing into wholesale is easier if you’re starting as a vendor. Before making the switch, ensure your retail business has developed as much as it can to best serve you in this transition process. This means establishing solid business connections with as many wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers as possible. Maintain good relations with your suppliers through on-time payments. Down the road they may be more flexible with you as a wholesale client.
You also want to network with as many other vendors and retailers as you can. People work with and buy from people they trust. Crafting a positive a reputation and name for yourself as a retailer will go a long way in building your clientele as a wholesaler. Anu Sahni, owner of All That Jazz wholesale company, started his business as a flea market vendor. He built his wholesale business through networking with other vendors and retailers. “Instead of fighting with others for market share, I network so we share instead of overlapping each other. That’s how we have grown so much as a business,” says Sahni. “For us, it was a natural process.”
Select Suppliers Carefully
Firstly, you need to determine which products are the best options for your wholesale business. This may or may not be the same as what’s best for your retail business. Think about what items have been best sellers for you personally. Next, determine if those items are specific to your store’s demographic, or if they have wider-reaching potential. To ensure you will always have demand for your business and products, you will want to select products that have measured growth and a sustainable profit margin, not just products that are on-trend this minute.
Once you determine which products to wholesale, determine which suppliers will best fit your needs. Price is important, but is not the only factor. Be sure to consider quality, shipping costs, ability to meet product demand, reliability, and return policies. Cost-effective merchandise is great, but if your retailers are not happy with the quality, you could end up with returned products or lost customers. Likewise if they are waiting too long to receive shipments, they may look to other suppliers. “Everybody wants their orders yesterday,” says Pomerantz. “You need to meet those demands and have product ready.” Sahni agrees, saying it is important to have “quick responses,” and to “supply goods on time.”
Adopt a B2B Mindset
If you are transitioning from a brick and mortar or market vendor to wholesaler, in addition to adjustments in the business model, there are also lifestyle adjustments to be prepared for. Physical stores have set operating hours. While as a retailer the work does not necessarily end when the store closes, as a wholesaler it is a different ballgame. “I work seven days a week,” says Pomerantz. “Between flea markets, home shows and state fairs, there’s always something going on.” Depending on the space you have, there may be set hours you are available in an office. However, between working with retailers, manufactures, importers, and distributors potentially in various time zones it is more likely that your schedule will require a large degree of flexibility. “We want to keep the clients we have happy, in addition to acquiring new ones,” continues Sahni. Keeping clients happy means being available and easily accessible.
In the end, starting out as a retailer gives you credibility with other retailers when starting a wholesale business. The more happy customers you have now, the more other retailers will trust your judgment on products, and feel confident in the service they will receive from your wholesale company. Wholesaling is not an easy job, but the potential for profits makes the effort worthwhile. As Sahni says, the most important thing is “having a good pulse of the market and bringing in good quality products.”
All That Jazz is a wholesale and retail business, with a brick and mortar store located in Sturgis, MI. They specialize in apparel, bedding, and licensed products. To view their collection and learn more about their business, visit www.allthatjazzonine.com.
MysicFireLights started out as a vendor in Fleamasters Fleamarket. From there, MysticFireLights grew to souvenir shops, home shows, and now wholesale. Visit their online store at www.mysticfirelights.com.
All That Jazz