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Stocking Your Store: A Guide to the Best Online Wholesalers

By: Jackie Eldridge-- 2014-12-12 10:48 am --

Small businesses have an increasing and evolving selection of providers to choose from in the world of online wholesaling.

The health of your small business and the ability to compete in your niche will increasingly depend on whether you choose the right online wholesaler for your needs.  The online store model has proven it can deliver strong savings over the last decade. With more competition among the online sites themselves and the fact that your competitors also take advantage of online wholesaling, it’s important to take the time to find the right wholesaler for your business.

Online wholesalers include some very large players who sell to a broad market and a large number of smaller players, many of whom target more restricted markets, say, for tools or printing materials or cleaning supplies or art.  Let’s take a look at some of the power players in online wholesaling.


Along the larger players in the online wholesaling world is the giant Alibaba. Alibaba does not sell its own products but rather serves as a portal for buyers and sellers to connect online.  Because it is based in China and has grown up in the Chinese market, it is well suited for the Chinese and Asian markets, but it has recently entered the U.S. and other Western markets.

Alibaba’s relationships with Chinese and other East Asian manufacturers ensure a good job of providing manufactured goods. It remains unclear how this will work in the local U.S. market.  Alibaba sells a very broad range of items from chemicals and other industrial materials to electrical equipment and even more common consumer products, like toys and health and beauty products.  As an online ecommerce site, it may surprise many that it is already far larger than Amazon in gross sales. 

Amazon - AmazonSupply

There is also the likely to become giant AmazonSupply.  AmazonSupply follows the model established by Amazon, which sells most of the products it offers directly.  The potential advantage for Amazon and its customers is that it has more direct control over its supply chain and, as the reputation of Amazon can already attest, it can provide excellent customer service.

And, Amazon and its B2B wholesale site AmazonSupply are still expanding in Asian markets.

AmazonSupply already sells a wide variety of service industry related items (e.g., tools, hardware, cleaning supplies, office, and food service). The service tends to focus more directly on the needs of somewhat larger businesses and not “mom-and-pop” retailers. However, it’s likely going to follow the model of Amazon and eventually expand into all areas of business and business wholesale.  As Amazon already sells consumer items directly to the consumer market, it may focus the brand of AmazonSupply on the more purely business market.


For those who specifically want products and service oriented toward small businesses, there is DollarDays, which also sells a broad variety of items. It aims to serve the small business community by allowing smaller orders and responsive customer service.  Dollar Days also serves the needs of nonprofits, schools, and other civic organizations by supplying basic office and school products and seasonal items. 

DollarDays has become successful in part because of its reputation for great customer service and its ability to provide products most useful for the small business market.  With its 300,000+ items in stock and efficient shipping that matches any current supplier, it is one of the better choices for many small businesses. 

Wholesale Central

Another site that markets itself as a B2B wholesaler but appeals to general consumers as well is Wholesale Central. This site links buyers and sellers and covers a broad range of products that include shoes and apparel, distinguishing it from the more business-oriented AmazonSupply and resembling Alibaba in its breadth of products.

Many other smaller wholesalers deal with liquidated items that are only available temporarily, and inventory may change continuously.  Sites that advertise these smaller wholesalers are targeted to those interested in starting small businesses by offering good deals on starting inventory.  

Examples of these sites include opening-a-small-business, which lists mostly specialty wholesalers, and etsy.com, which targets those seeking highly unusual or unique items in clothing and arts, and controls its market by restricting access.

Choosing wholesalers

How to choose the best supplier for your needs?  When considering online wholesalers, it’s best to shop around.  Wholesalers may have different strengths and weaknesses with respect to your needs, and as the industry is changing, their abilities to serve your needs can change quickly, often improving as they sense the demands in the marketplace.   

The large suppliers may be able to serve some of your needs very well, but look into all the costs associated with buying from them.  There may also be many smaller suppliers that have more targeted products or a greater variety of products that suit your specific business needs.  To find a wholesaler that fits your needs, look at your specific trade publications.  Wholesalers often place ads in these publications for their distributors.  One way to find trade publications is to visit TradePub.com, which provides free publications from a range of industries.  Order a few publications from them – or go their websites – and find the ads that pertain to your needs 

A final consideration is that if you are able to find local suppliers, you may significantly reduce shipping costs and may be able to develop positive relationships that provide opportunities for better service, better deals, and a good, long-term relationship.

Dollar Days is focused on helping small businesses compete against larger enterprises by understanding the requirements of small businesses. With more than 300,000 products on its site and a presence in 45 countries around the world, it reaches a large base of retailers, nonprofits, and consumers. Visit http://www.dollardays.com for more information.