Savvy Product Sourcing and Hot Wholesale Suppliers

Need help locating reputable wholesale suppliers? We offer tips and resources for tracking them down, as well as a list of 10 to get you started.
Lots of people sell things online that they are passionate about — say, vintage toys or historic memorabilia — that serve a narrow-niche customer base and shares their enthusiasm. Many others, however, are focused on moving product with their efforts aimed at finding merchandise at an affordable price that they can resell quickly.

For this latter type of business model, finding reputable wholesale suppliers is one of the most critical components of a successful operation. However, while that sounds simple enough, the research required to be sure you have a legitimate, factory-authorized wholesaler, and not just a middle-man marking up the price, takes lots of legwork.

One reason it's difficult to find genuine suppliers is because scammers know where you search for resources. Some pose as wholesalers, but are not, others list in directories just to get your personal information so they can sell it to marketers.

Another reason why it's hard to find genuine wholesalers is because they generally do not advertise on the Internet because they are large companies that don't believe it's worth their time and money to expose themselves to small home-based e-biz owners, said Robin Cowie, president of WorldWide Brands, a wholesale supplier vetting company. These wholesalers, however, will work with you, if you can find them.

WorldWide Brands is a research firm that continually adds true wholesale suppliers to its OneSource database, now at about 8,000 strong offering millions of products. E-tailers can gain access to it for a one-time flat fee of $299. This isn't a bad deal, considering that Cowie and other staff members literally travel the world to research product sources. The company is an eBay certified solution provider, as well as a member of the developer's program, CEO Chris Malta is the official product sourcing editor for eBay Radio and the company also hosts it own weekly product-sourcing radio show.

We caught up with Cowie (co-Author of eBay Performance! and also incidentally is the creator of the Blair Witch Project), to get some tips for those trying to find product sources. He recently was in China and Hong Kong researching wholesalers and is creating an educational video focusing on how to do business with Asian companies that will be posted at the WorldWide Brand site by the end of the month.

"Sometimes, it's as easy as looking at the package and finding the manufacturer name and digging up the contact info and calling to find out who are the authorized wholesalers," said Cowie. "Usually, it's not. But the one thing to keep in mind is that all the sources have pros and cons. The key to success is to use multiple sources, and try them to see what works in combination."

Cowie's Sourcing and Wholesale Tips
  • Local Sourcing: Yard sales and garage sales often provide good profit margins, but these have their limitations, as inventory is naturally random and limited.

  • Drop Shipping: This is a low-cost way to take the jump from hobby to home business without carrying inventory, but you have to be sure to do lots of research to find reputable drop shippers. "This is great for testing how a product will do because there's no storage, but the downside is that you have no control of delivery system and the costs are higher," said Cowie. He also recommends that you always have several items on hand even when drop-shipping. "You should have a back up, so if something goes wrong, you own a few of whatever your selling and you can send them out if the drop shipper fails you."

  • Light Bulk: Buying "light bulk" lots, available through some suppliers, generally are for orders of $500 or less and allows you to keep a small supply of products on hand, therefore giving you control over the shipping process.

  • Importing: Clearly, more and more e-tailers are looking to overseas market, especially China, for product sources. The advantage to this is that profits are generally higher, said Cowie, but the drawback is that you usually have to buy large volumes of product and navigate customs. This is where firms who specialize in imports can help, for instance, GlobalSources.

  • Liquidations: Clear out sales are also great places to find inventory, though you need to be smart about researching the items. In some cases, there's a reason the merchandise didn't sell, the products may just not be in demand, while other times the items may popular but are being marked down due to the business being sold or closed down.

  • Legitimate Versus Impostors: Genuine suppliers will never charge a monthly fee for you to sell their products, so beware of bogus charges; it usually means it's a bogus company. Real wholesale suppliers always work directly with the manufacturer, and therefore, should have a relationship that reflects this, so be sure to ask your supplier questions about their connection to the maker of the product. Finally, are you getting the product as a price well below the market rate? If you're not, you may be dealing with a middleman who is posing as a wholesale firm, but in reality, is just marking up the cost and passing it on to you.

Christmas in August: 10 Hot Wholesale Suppliers
Another bit of advice from Cowie: "If you're not already planning for the holiday season, it's almost too late. Right now you need to be setting up your sourcing so you have merchandise in and can start getting your marketing campaigns ready to go." To help you get ready, we provide a list of 10 wholesale suppliers courtesy of WorldWide Brands.
  1. Lieberman's Gallery; www.Liebermans.net; Florence, Mass.
    Contact: Courtney Burke; Courtney@liebermans.net
    Product Types: Art prints, posters, tapestries, canvas transfers
    Brands: Aaron Ashley, Art Beats, Axelle Posters, Bernard Fine Art, Clicart, Directional Publishing and more.

  2. A1 Home Décor; Glastonbury, Conn.
    Contact: Elaine Schwartz; mycatalog999@aol.com
    Product Types: Angel, animal, character throws, wall hangings, pillows, ceramic plats, chilrdren's towels, area rugs and more.
    Brands: Mohawk

  3. Mary Moppins Co.; Eugene, Ore.
    Contact: Mary Findley; www.goclean.com
    Product Types: Boat, RV, home and car care kits, mops, scrubbing pads, lambswool cleaning mitt and household cleaning products.
    Brands: Best Home, Mary Moppins and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cleaning.

  4. Salco Distributors; www.EZDropshipper.com Largo, Fla.
    Contact: Bert Manasse or Don Sutton; webmaster@ezdropshipper.com
    Product Types: Pasta Magic, Nicer Dicer, Magic Knife, exercise equipment
    Brands: As Seen on TV, Body by Jake and more.

  5. Kinetic A Division of Pathway; www.Kinetic-Cookware.com; Davenport, La.
    Contact: Amanda Weitzel; aweitzel@Kinetic-Cookware.com
    Product Types: Cast iron pans, cookware, utensil sets, electric frying pans, cookware gifts and more.
    Brands: Color Cast, Kitchen Basics, Classicor and Leyse.

  6. Dropship Direct; www.dropshipdirect.com; Lincoln City, Ore
    Contact: Lacey Johnson; account@DropshipDirect.com
    Product Types:Cameras, backpack coolers, battery chargers, deep fryers, tents computers, electric guitars, ice cram makers and more.
    Brands: 3M, AAMCO, Calvin Klein, DeWalt, Fossil, Gucci, Kenneth Cole and Microsoft.

  7. 925Silver4U.com Wholesale Jewelry; Bangkok, Thailand
    Contact: Apisith Chawla; info@925Silver4u.com
    Product Types: Sterling silver, opal, amber, gemstone jewelry, rings, pendants and more.
    Brands: SJC

  8. Volcanic Earth; www.VolacanicEarth.com; Efate, Vanuatu
    Contact: Barry Roche; barry@volcanicearth.com
    Product Types: aromatherapy, body scrubs, lip balms, bath salts, volcanic ash products.
    Brands: Volcanic Earth

  9. SkyBox USA; www.Skybox-USA.com; Lake Worth, Fla.
    Contact: Jason Myers; Jason.myers@skybox-usa.com
    Product Types: Satellite radios, satellite boom boxes, satellite radio accessories.
    Brands: JVC, Sirius, Pioneer, Audiovox, XM, Delphi and more.

  10. Fox & Hounds, Inc.; www.FoxandHounds.com; Alexandria, Va.
    Contact: Kathryn McCarthy; info@FoxandHounds.com
    Product Types: Dog clothes, beds, tiaras, harnesses, pet collars and more.
    Brands: Elvis Presley, Peanuts, Fox & Hounds, Jazzy

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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