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Where Can I Find a Reputable Wholesaler?

By Brad Sugars Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I'm looking into starting an apparel business but need to figure out where I can buy wholesale products from a reputable source.

It's important you find a wholesaler who you can work with and trust. There are some steps you can follow to ensure you find one that fits those needs.
First, and this may sound obvious, decide what you are going to be selling, and then ask someone who has already had success in the same field which wholesaler he or she uses.
If you can find a business that does something similar to yours but isn't in direct competition with you, you can use it as a resource.
If you are having trouble meeting other business owners in your field, trade shows are a great place to meet others in your industry who can help you decide which wholesaler is right for your business.
You can also do online searches for wholesalers in your industry and then find or create forums to ask other business owners what they think of those wholesalers.
There are five types of wholesalers, so decide which type works for you before buying anything. They are:
1. Manufacturers
2. Distributors
3. Liquidators
4. Importers
5. Drop shippers
Most small businesses use distributors as their wholesaler. Depending on what business you are in, you can probably contact a salesperson or someone else at a local distributor to give you information on exactly what it can do for your business.
Manufacturers can be expensive for small and midsize businesses because of minimum purchase requirements. Liquidators tend to sell items that are discontinued or hard to get, meaning they aren't typically a consistent source of products for small businesses.
Importers are the main option when dealing with goods from overseas but not domestic items. Drop shippers are great for online businesses because they can help with storage and overhead by storing and shipping products for the business directly to your customers.
A basic rule of thumb for selecting a wholesaler is identifying one that has a solid reputation. If your wholesaler isn't well thought of by other businesses, what are the odds you will get good service?
Finally, make sure your wholesaler is fully licensed to do business in your area. If it isn't, that status could cause you problems with stock down the road, which could lead to big trouble for your business.

Brad Sugars is the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH. As an entrepreneur, author and business coach, he has owned and operated more than two dozen companies including his main company, ActionCOACH, which has more than 1,000 offices in 34 countries.

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