These days, it’s possible to buy just about anything in bulk. From the shelves of your local Costco to online wholesale for small businesses, you can find anything you need for less than retail prices. A reliable wholesale supplier can also help streamline your business operations, allowing you more time to focus on building customer relations.
The process seems simple: buy wholesale, mark up the prices, and sell for profit. No need to involve yourself in the manufacturing or distribution process. The problem is that the process of finding the best wholesale vendor for your small business can be stressful. Not all vendors are verified, and without prior experience, it’s difficult to know which wholesale supplier is right for your business.
In our guide to the top small business wholesale suppliers, you’ll learn about the best options on the market today. We’ll compare them for you, so all you have to do is identify the best fit for your business needs.
What is a wholesale supplier?
A wholesale supplier is a B2B company that sells products in large quantities at a discounted rate. Although some of them manufacture the wholesale products they sell, not all do. The businesses that buy from wholesale vendors then turn around and sell the products to consumers for profit. In short, a wholesale supplier is in the business of selling, and you’re in the business of reselling.
There are two kinds of wholesale supply methods: traditional wholesale and dropshipping.
Traditional wholesale is the more hands-on approach. Your business purchases from the vendor (or manufacturer) who ships you your order. It’s then up to you to store your inventory until a customer makes a purchase, at which point you must find, pack, and ship the item to its final destination.
Dropshipping, on the other hand, has been around since the days of mail-order catalogs. It’s a way to rapidly ship out client orders and simplify inventory by cutting out the intermediary steps of the shipping process. Rather than delivering the product from the supplier to your business to the consumer, the product is shipped directly from supplier to consumer. Dropshipping has revolutionized the e-commerce industry, taking fulfillment concerns out of the hands of small business owners. You’ll never have to worry about keeping products in stock, and your customers can enjoy the convenience of fast, reliable shipping.
In 2021, there are 2.14 billion digital buyers in the world, or over a quarter of the world’s population. That’s as good a sign as any to jump on the e-commerce bandwagon with the assistance of either traditional wholesale vendors or dropshipping. Let’s take a closer look at the top wholesale vendors for small businesses.
Compare the best wholesale suppliers
Best wholesale vendors for small businesses
Now that you have an overview of what each vendor offers, let’s dive into a more in-depth summary of their services and differentiators.
Alibaba: Best for merchandise affordability
Chinese company AliExpress, whose B2B marketplace is known as Alibaba, has made a name for itself as an affordable wholesale supplier. The company ships worldwide with no order minimum and is renowned for offering a vast wholesale product selection. YouTuber Brett Conti even used Alibaba to source the materials necessary to build a six-figure clothing business out of his college dorm room. It’s a cheap, fast option for entrepreneurs anywhere.
One of the main drawbacks of using Alibaba is that there is little quality control or verification of vendors. That means that you might not be getting exactly what you think you’re ordering. When doing wholesale business with Alibaba, it’s recommended you order from several vendors before deciding who your long-term supplier will be.
- Some of the widest product variety you’ll find on the internet
- 24/7 live chat available for a smooth buying and selling experience
- Competitive financing options with e-credit
Amazon Business: Best for analytics
Amazon is one of the giants of online marketplaces, with thousands of quality vendors to choose from. In order to participate in wholesale transactions with Amazon Business, though, you’ll need to sign up for an account. In exchange, you’re guaranteed access to a comprehensive list of verified wholesale manufacturers and suppliers. Unfortunately, the platform is only available to businesses based in the U.S., Germany, and Japan, so it’s not the best option for international business ventures.
One of our top picks for small business owners, Amazon Business offers discount programs and flexible payment options that make it stand out from the crowd. While the site sells products across industries, we’ve found it’s ideal for businesses seeking restaurant, beauty, or office supplies.
- Amazon’s name carries reliability and trustworthiness
- They take care to verify vendors
- Business and bulk discounts are available
- Unrivaled budgeting tools
- Best for office, restaurant, beauty, IT, and medical supplies
SaleHoo: Best for buyer resources
Whether you’d rather work with manufacturers, wholesalers, or dropshippers, you can find it all on SaleHoo. The platform allows you to search by supplier or product, making it easy to find dependable suppliers within your business niche. SaleHoo boasts over 8,000 verified companies on its platform and is easy to integrate with e-commerce platforms like Shopify.
You won’t have to hunt for a reliable supplier because the company has already done it for you. SaleHoo also makes it easy for users to educate themselves through training courses and customer support solutions. The platform helps over 137,000 businesses find suppliers, including Becky Beach, who made $100,000 in sales her first year dropshipping.
- Excellent resources to help you boost profits and sell wholesale products
- An easy-to-use interface with suppliers, products, and training all in one place
- Ability to easily integrate the platform with eBay, Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, and more
- A rigorous screening process for suppliers
- Money-back guarantee
Wholesale Central: Best free subscription option
The next contender on the list offers a free platform where business owners can connect with wholesale vendors. But to access the entirety of their catalog, it’s first necessary to sign up for the free premium service by entering your email address, which is common practice amongst wholesale dropshipping directories.
Wholesale Central adds new distributors to its site every day and even makes it simple to find the day’s top deals (which are approved by Wholesale Central itself). The website is user-friendly and is diligent about monitoring complaints against vendors and removing them from the site if necessary.
- Completely free to use
- Helpful tools to source new products and suppliers
- Simple and easy-to-navigate website
Global Sources: Best for online merchants
For over 50 years, Global Sources has been a premier platform, connecting businesses with verified suppliers. Global Sources’ nearly 200,000 vendors are mostly based in China and sell millions of items across 22 product categories.
The site is an excellent place to find unique wares that might not be available elsewhere. That’s because the company seeks out new suppliers at its trade shows and helps them break into the wholesale market. With the goal of uniting manufacturers and importers, Global Sources’ main aim is to drive global trade.
- Decades of experience in the export and selling market
- Focuses on high-quality products and reliable suppliers
- Best for sourcing electronics, fashion, and gifts
Choosing the best wholesale suppliers for your business
The list we’ve compiled here is but a small sampling of the thousands of small business wholesale suppliers and platforms on the internet today. We’ve mainly focused on large platforms with millions of product options so that business owners of all kinds are sure to find an option that suits their needs. There are also niche suppliers that focus on particular kinds of merchandise, like JGoodin for wholesale jewelry accessories and CC Wholesale Clothing for apparel.
In addition, you’ll need to consider the pros and cons of working directly with manufacturers and choosing dropshipping. Perhaps you feel more comfortable interfacing with wholesale suppliers rather than manufacturers, or maybe it’s too early for your business to adopt dropshipping practices. Either way, every business is unique, and the way yours operates will determine its future success.
By 2023, B2B e-commerce is projected to hit $1.8 trillion and account for 17% of all American B2B sales. Choosing your supplier is just as important as formulating a business marketing strategy, and it should be treated with the same amount of time and care. From shipping times to subscription prices, it’s all about identifying your must-have features and narrowing down the competition from there. At the end of the day, the customer is king, and wholesale suppliers allow you to find the best merchandise on the market to satisfy your customers.