When I started my shopkeeper journey seven years ago, where to buy wholesale was one of my first and most important questions. And although I’m an avid googler, I don’t recall finding a clear answer to this question back then. Since then, many things have changed, such as the addition of online wholesale platforms. This has changed the wholesale game for retailers.
Before COVID, my answer to this question would have been somewhat different. Things have changed, and we’ve had to adjust. This adjustment has been frustrating for many of us. Combing through catalogs or spending countless hours trying to source and buy can be extremely frustrating for an independent retailer, as we already do so much, and our time is precious.
Here are the top places to buy wholesale items for your brick-and-mortar store.
If you’re new to retail like I was eight years ago, you might wonder what people mean when they say “market.” There are markets of all sizes, but the national markets are in massive buildings with hundreds of showrooms where you can walk through with a sales rep, look at merchandise, and place orders for products that get shipped to your store.
The following are some of the bigger, more popular markets, but I know most states have smaller venues, too.
Because of COVID, some markets have gone virtual. Other markets are open during the week, and some are continuing to host market weeks. Be sure to check out their websites for more information on how they are proceeding, even in 2021.
Atlanta, GA: AmericasMart
This is a market event I have personally attended. I know as a first-time how intimidating it can be, so I wrote a 5-part series on AmericasMart. It’s free and filled with helpful information about attending the Mart (from travel to navigating the buildings to tracking your orders, and more).
AmericasMart’s Atlanta sources gifts, décor, and lifestyle products from more than 8,000 brands across a plethora of business niches. These include tabletop, housewares, gourmet, juvenile, and fashion accessories of all kinds. They’re open year-round for trade professionals and host signature events like Design + Dine, Creative Flower Workshop, and Lunch & Learn: Sustainable Performance Fabric.
Chicago, IL: theMART
Dallas, TX: The Dallas Market Center
Denver, CO: The Denver Mart
The Denver Mart also hosts a huge antique and vintage show each spring, summer, and fall, where hundreds of dealers present their unique finds.
Los Angeles, CA: The California Market Center
The California Market Center provides insight into sustainable fashion, organic food options, and much, much more.
Miami, FL: The Miami Merchandise Mart
The Miami Merchandise Mart is a professional wholesale market where showroom owners assemble collections from manufacturers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the U.S.
New York, NY: The New York Market Center
Located at 230 Fifth Avenue, New York.
New York, NY: New York NOW
New York NOW is a gift market.
Minneapolis, MN: The Minneapolis Mart
High Point, NC: The High Point Market
The High Point Market is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world.
San Francisco, CA: The San Francisco Design Center
To order directly from a manufacturer or vendor, you’ll need to know the name of the business. When my sister and I started our retail business, this was the biggest challenge.
Without attending a big market event, we had no idea where or who to buy from! But times have changed, and sometimes you come across a vendor in a magazine (like Gift Mart magazine), on social media, or in an article you read.
Once you identify a wholesale company you want to buy from, you can most likely visit their website for more information. Many of these vendors have a way to apply online, digital catalogs, forms to request, paper catalogs, or their website is equipped to take online orders after your application as a stockist has been approved.
Online Wholesale Marketplace Platforms
Over the past few years, this has become popular, and there are multiple options now. Here are a few well-known options: Faire, Tundra, Bulletin, Abound, and Stockabl. A popular international choice is Alibaba.
I have personally used Tundra and Faire and wrote a blog post about the differences between the two.
If you’re a brick and mortar store owner or an e-commerce business with a resale license and/or Federal tax ID, you can apply online on any of these platforms, find vendors and products that you can sell in your store, place orders, and get them shipped to you.
Minimum orders are usually small with these wholesalers, which is nice for retailers with small buying budgets or just starting.
Direct from Makers
This can be a fun one because often, retailers are finding makers on Instagram or Facebook. If you attend a shopping event in your area, you’ll have to ask makers they wholesale or consign, but this is a great way to find handmade products for your stores.
Wholesale Craft Suppliers
If you make your own products rather than buy products to resell, you are most likely looking to purchase wholesale craft supplies. Darice was a past podcast sponsor. Michael’s Craft Store owns Darice, and they recently announced they are closing. This affects many makers in our Savvy communities, so I wrote a blog post listing alternatives to Darice.
If you’re a Vintage/Antique dealer, then you’re sourcing products from a variety of places like “pickers,” estate sales, barn sales, garage/yard sales, and auction houses. Or, you may have a system set up in your store to accept and buy from walk-ins (people who bring their items to sell to you, and then you resell them for a profit).
Don’t Forget to Do Your Homework
Just because a wholesaler is prepared to sell to you doesn’t mean it’s immediately a good fit for your retail business. Do your homework! If you’re a member of the Shopkeepers Lab or Master Shopkeepers, ask others for their past experiences or opinions. It helps to hear from other shopkeepers, it really does.
- Shopkeeper Shoutout: Veronica of Enchanted Conservatory
- Full list of wholesale markets
- 5-part series on AmericasMart
- Differences between Tundra and Faire
- Alternatives to Darice for wholesale craft buyers
- Subscribe to the Shopkeepers Lab or get on the waitlist for Master Shopkeepers
- [02:06] Shopkeeper Shoutout
- [04:24] Markets
- [08:53] Manufacturers/Vendors
- [11:43] Online Wholesale Marketplace Platforms
- [14:18] Direct From Makers
- [15:32] Wholesale Craft Suppliers
- [17:09] Vintage/Antique Dealers