Many businesses use wholesalers and suppliers, from the retail store where you purchase your favourite autumn jumpers, to the hairdresser blow drying your hair after a quick shampoo.

One of the main reasons for this is that making products can be time-consuming for a small to medium-sized business – as well as expensive!

Even businesses which do make their own products are likely to purchase the materials from a wholesaler before putting them together.

As a freelancer, you may be wondering if you can even use wholesalers – so we’ll look at what a wholesaler is and who can use them.

What is a wholesaler?

A wholesaler sells products or materials in bulk to other companies at discounted rates, who then resell them for profit.

What’s the difference between wholesalers, suppliers, and manufacturers?

Wholesalers, suppliers, and manufacturers are often used interchangeably, and they are similar in some ways, but there are key differences.


Wholesalers A business that sells a large quantity of goods at discounted prices to retailers.
Suppliers A person who manages the goods needed by retailers. For example, if you own your own retail business, you may message a supplier to order more of your popular stock.
Manufacturers A company or organisation that makes the goods.


An example of businesses which may use a wholesaler

Example 1:

Let’s say you’re a sole trader who owns a womenswear retail business. You design some of your own clothes with in-house seamstresses, but also use wholesalers to keep your website and social media pages busy with regular pieces for your customers to purchase.

You know a wholesaler that stocks the type of clothes that match your brand and visit them monthly to purchase various stock. In this instance, you’ve purchased 120 of your previous sell-out dresses and 35 jackets that are now in stock from your wholesaler (you’ve bought fewer of these as you don’t know whether there will be demand for them).

The wholesaler has likely purchased the goods from a manufacturer or, in some cases, another wholesaler to go on sale at your retail business, and others alike.

Example 2:

You’ve just opened a small convenience store and have now found some good wholesalers to provide fresh fruit and veg, snacks, and various newspapers to your store. They sell you these items at a discounted rate, and you sell them at your retail price to earn a profit. As time goes on, you know which items your customers love, and which ones aren’t worth repurchasing.

An example of a wholesaler in this instance is Smiths News, who supply newspapers and magazines to 24,000 retailers, superstores, and corner shops.

Who can use a wholesaler?

The good news is anyone can use a wholesaler! There’s usually no restriction to who can use a wholesaler, although many microbusinesses and freelancers may decide against using them because even though the discount is great, wholesalers tend to sell in bulk.

If you work from your front room selling American Candy in the UK, there are probably only so many boxes of sweets you actually need before you can no longer move around in your own home!

Why should I buy wholesale?

There are many reasons why buying wholesale may be a great option for your business.

  • Consistency purchasing familiar brands for your customers: Wholesalers are known for having lots of branded, well-known products in stock that your customers are familiar with – which helps you with sales and increasing your profits.
  • Discounted prices: They have a variety of goods that you can buy in bulk at a decent price. Some wholesalers offer a better discount the longer you continue to use them.
  • White labelling and personalisation: Many wholesalers team up with drop shipping companies nowadays, so you can make your own personal supplies. Known as white labelling, this is where a manufacturer creates blank t-shirts, jumpers, stationary, or just about anything, that you can then rebrand with your own logo.


Where can I find good wholesalers?

There are many options when looking for wholesalers, and it’s definitely worth testing a few out to see which works for you.

  • Local wholesalers: With a local wholesaler you can see the stock in person and build a good rapport with them – shipping costs will also be less expensive (if you need shipping)
  • Trade shows: There are 2 types; horizontal trade shows where wholesalers select a wider variety of products to showcase so you can see what you like, and vertical trade shows where wholesalers offer goods and services for a specific industry.
  • Online: You’ll find suppliers in the UK and abroad that may cater to your needs better than any of the above, depending on what it is you need. Always look up the pros and cons! For example, if you opt for a wholesaler abroad, some banks can inflate the exchange rate without any warning.

Find even more advice and guidance for freelancers in our info hub!


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