Choosing suppliers

The Shopify App Store has many apps that help connect you with suppliers. Whether you find your supplier through Shopify or elsewhere, it's important to know what makes a legitimate and good supplier.

Signs of legitimate suppliers

Look for the following characteristics of legitimate suppliers when deciding where to get your products from.

No monthly fees

Most legitimate suppliers don't charge their customers monthly fees to do business with them. Instead, they get paid when you order products from them. Some suppliers ask for monthly fees, but these likely aren't legitimate suppliers.

Supplier directories, however, might ask for fees and are legitimate businesses. These directories list many different suppliers to make it easier to find products that you want to sell. For more information, see Supplier Directories.

They don't sell to the public

Most legitimate suppliers don't sell to the general public. There are exceptions, but most suppliers outside of the Shopify App Store require you to apply for a wholesale account, prove you're a legitimate business, and be approved before you place your first order.

If a supplier also sells to the public and offers "wholesale pricing," then they are likely another dropshipping business that is selling at inflated rates.

Fee for each order

Many dropshippers charge a fee for each order depending on the size and complexity of the items being shipped. This is standard in the industry. It is generally cheaper to package and ship a single order that contains multiple products than package and ship each of those products individually.

Minimum order sizes

Some suppliers require your orders to have a minimum order size or value. They do this to make sure the business placing the order is worth their time and effort to work with.

Sometimes your orders won't meet this requirement. One way to handle this situation is to place the minimum order amount but have it act as a credit instead of a large order. Then, when each order comes in, you can have the value of the order come off the credit.

For example, if a supplier has a minimum order value of $500, then you can commit $500 worth of orders to them. If you receive an order worth $50, then you can place that order with the supplier and then have $450 left in credit.

Meeting the minimum order value upfront proves to the supplier that you're willing to meet their requirements and lets you place orders below the minimum threshold.

You need to contact the supplier to see if they are willing to do this for you.

Signs of good suppliers to work with

The best suppliers tend to have the following features:

  • Expert staff - Good suppliers know their industry well and can talk in detail about their product offerings. You should be able to call a representative with questions and get valuable advice.

  • Dedicated support representatives - Having an assigned support representative speeds up resolutions to any problems. Look for companies that provide one for you.

  • Invested in technology - Working with suppliers who have features such as real-time inventory, online catalogs, and order histories can help make your own business more efficient.

  • Easy to place orders - Calling in your orders or filling them out on the supplier's website usually takes a lot of time and effort. Finding a supplier who can take orders by email or through an app saves you time.

  • Central location - Suppliers who are located in the middle of the country or who have locations near major cities are usually able to ship orders quicker than those on the edge of the country or away from major cities.

    For example, if you're in the United States and your supplier is on the east coast, then it can take nearly a week for a shipment to make it to the west coast. If your supplier is centrally located, most orders only take 2-3 days to reach your customers.

    Instead, if you're in Australia then you likely want to find a supplier with locations close to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.

  • Organized and efficient - Organization and efficiency can be hard to determine without using the supplier. Placing a few test orders can help you see a few important factors about the supplier such as:

    • How they handle the order process
    • How quickly the items ship
    • How quickly you receive tracking information and invoices
    • The quality of the packing job when the item arrives.

Finding suppliers with Shopify

Shopify has partnered with many suppliers in different ways. Review each type to see which one might be best for your business.

Print-on-demand apps

If you have a design that you want to print on T-shirts, mugs, tote bags, or other products, then a print-on-demand app is likely the best supplier for you.

These suppliers print and ship your products on your behalf whenever an order is placed on your store. Many don't have minimum order requirements and have lots of shipping options.

To explore different print-on-demand apps, visit the Shopify App Store.

Supplier marketplace apps

Many apps act as supplier directories in which you can browse different products and add them to your store.

To explore different supplier marketplace apps, visit the Shopify App Store.

Finding suppliers outside of the Shopify App Store

Outside the Shopify App Store, you can find plenty of suppliers that you can use with your business.

Supplier directories

A supplier directory is a database of suppliers that can make it easy to find the products that you're looking for. Many directories have a screening process to ensure the suppliers that are listed are genuine wholesalers. Most directories charge a fee to access their directory.

Listed below are some well-known directories.

  • Worldwide Brands - An established and well-known supplier directory. It has thousands of wholesalers and over 10 million products.
  • SaleHoo - This directory has a low annual cost and access to over 8,000 suppliers.
  • Doba - Integrates with its 165 suppliers, which lets you place orders directly through the service.

Membership to a supplier directory can be helpful, but isn't necessary if you already know what products you want to sell.

Attend a trade show

A trade show lets you connect with major manufacturers and wholesalers in a specific market. If you have the time and money to attend, then it's a great way to learn about a market and evaluate the different suppliers.

Search online

You can search the internet for suppliers, but it can be hard to filter through all the search results. Keep in mind the following points while you search:

  • You have to search extensively: Many suppliers aren't concerned about marketing, and finding their website requires a lot of sifting through search results. It's common that a good supplier's website won't appear in even the top 100 results.

  • Don't ignore poorly-designed websites: Many suppliers don't invest in good-looking websites. While the quality of a website can usually indicate the quality of the business, it's not always the case with suppliers.

  • Use a variety of search terms: Don't restrict your searches to wholesale supplier for a particular product. Using terms such as distributor, reseller, bulk, or warehouse can help narrow down your searches.

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