How to Buy Wholesale Merchandise

Finding Products to Sell

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Having a successful retail business depends greatly on offering the right product, at the right price, at the right time. Therefore, it is paramount to the success of your business to be able to locate the best sources for those products. Once you know what products or product lines you would like to sell, it's time to find places to buy wholesale merchandise.

Buying Wholesale Merchandise

Before you buy wholesale merchandise for your store, try to visit a competitor or a store selling a product line similar to what you plan to sell. Browse the store's product selection, making a mental note of the brands they carry. What products seem to be selling well? Which items are in the clearance bin? If you visit a similar store too far away to be a competitor, that retailer may be willing to share with you the source of his wholesale merchandise.

Retailers can often find products to sell in their stores by searching online, joining buying groups, using library resources and attending trade shows or buyers' markets.

A trade show is one of the best places to buy wholesale merchandise for your store. Retailers can find many suppliers, serving the same markets, and their product offerings. The biggest trade shows are held annually in Las Vegas and California but there are local ones. Conduct an online search for tradeshows in your industry to find the nearest event. Trade shows aren't open to the general public so be prepared to show proof that you're an established business such as a resale certificate, tax id, business cards, or some other form of license or permit.

Once your store is open and doing business, it will be easier to find wholesale merchandise to sell because the suppliers will be coming to you, instead of you looking for them. Customers can also play a large role in finding suppliers as they recommend products they would like to see in the store.

Types of Suppliers


Some manufacturers will sell their products at wholesale prices directly to the retailer. If they do, they may sell their products in large quantities or at a high minimum order. If you have a particular product you want to sell, contact the manufacturer and ask if they sell directly to dealers. If not, ask what distributors they sell their products through so you will know where to buy the items.


Due to globalization, importing products has become much easier than it used to be. Retailers can purchase from importers or buy the products directly from a foreign company. Before using this type of supplier, do your homework. It is important to understand all the aspects of the paperwork, shipping time, product lifecycle and all costs involved.


A distributor generally sells a large variety of a certain classification of products. They must make a profit too, so their prices may be slightly higher than if the item was purchased directly from the manufacturer. Retailers can buy lower quantities with little or no minimum order. Some even offer free freight on orders over a certain amount.

Other ​

Wholesalers and Liquidators: In searching for products at wholesale prices, you may find wholesalers that don't sell just one type of merchandise but many, many kinds of products. Some will sell closeouts, truckloads, and pallets of merchandise and even damaged goods. Before buying wholesale merchandise from this type of supplier, be sure you completely understand the condition, price, and terms of the sale.


Retailers can find many bargains on eBay, the world's largest auction site. Just browse the Wholesale Lots category of the type of store you have and you'll find tons of merchandise. Not all product prices on eBay are truly wholesale but if you spend time watching the auctions and learn how to buy effectively, you're sure to find a deal. Don't miss out on live auctions for bargains on merchandise for resale.

Choosing a Vendor

Once you've located several sources of products, evaluate each vendor on a variety of factors. In order to bring the best merchandise to your customers, you'll need to buy from someone offering quality products, reliable delivery, and superior customer service. This information can be gathered through references, marketing material or by simply asking the sales representative how they conduct business.

Other Factors to Consider


Stability exists when average prices are constant over time, or when they are rising at a very low and predictable rate.


The retail price of a good or product is what it cost when it is sold to the end user for consumption, not for resale through a third-party distribution channel.


A space you lease for the selling of goods to consumers. When it comes to business, retailers have one overall goal: to sell merchandise. That's why they focus on sales floor space, adequate parking for customers, and an overall image that draws in customers.

Shipping Options

This is the cost to the consumer to deliver goods. Generally, retails outlets ship by FedEx, UPS, and USPS (the least expensive and least common). The cost varies by location, product size, and how quickly the consumer wants the product. Some upscale boutiques will messenger goods.

Customer Service

No two retail stores have identical customer service  To provide excellent customer service you need to get the desired item into the customer's hand, give them the tools they need to decide to purchase quickly and enable them to purchase without effort.

Terms of Sale

This is the delivery and payment terms agreed upon between a buyer and a seller. 

Business Hours

This is the time of operation when the retail store is open to the public for the purchase of goods.

Returned Merchandise

Some returned goods will be resold by the same retailer for the full cost, but many will not.  More likely, they'll end up in the mark-down bin selling for a fraction of the cost. Dealing with unwanted goods can amount to a tenth of the cost of making and distributing them in the first place. 

Don't get discouraged. It may take some time, research and several vendor negotiations to find the best merchandise to sell in your retail store but nothing beats being an independent business person.