Whether you want to sell t-shirts or workwear, men’s or women’s clothing, buying clothes in bulk is the best way to secure low prices, so you can include your markup and then sell your items for a good profit. In this post, we will talk all about how to buy wholesale clothing for your online store.
Fulfill Your Legal Requirements
Before anything else, you need to make sure it’s legal to start a clothing business in your area. Get all the required licenses and permits to operate as a proper entity. For instance, you might require a city and state business license to become official. Visit the Small Business Administration website for more information on the legal requirements for starting a business.
If you’re looking to source wholesale clothes, you’ll need to legally register and obtain a tax ID (EIN) number. Having this ID on hand is important when buying products from wholesalers. Some of them may ask you to prove that you’re operating a legal business, so make sure to obtain your EIN before you contact them for bulk purchases.
Find Wholesalers for Bulk Clothing
After legally registering your business, having a good list of clothing wholesalers to choose from is key in getting your clothing store off the ground.
If you are looking to buy clothes in bulk for resale, pay heed to the following steps and you will be on track to having a successful business.
So let’s get started with the basics: domestic or overseas wholesale clothing suppliers?
Domestic vs Overseas
The first question everyone needs to answer is whether you want your wholesale clothing suppliers to be domestic or from overseas. Of course, both have their advantages and disadvantages. It will boil down to your personal preference, the products you’re selling, or your own values. Take care to research the quality standards for wholesale clothing vendors at home and abroad to decide which is the best option for your business.
Advantages of Domestic Clothing Suppliers
Let’s start with the advantages of using a domestic wholesale clothing supplier. Because they are located domestically, the shipping time will be significantly shorter. Communication will be easier because there will be no language barrier between you and the vendor. This could yield fewer errors and mistakes. Additionally, the quality of manufacturing should be higher.
Disadvantages of Domestic Clothing Suppliers
The two biggest disadvantages include the limited amount of products to choose from and their higher costs. There are fewer wholesale clothing suppliers in the US than overseas in places like China or India. And, due to the higher quality of products and better labor laws in the USA, the price of goods will be much higher. That being said it can be easier to find wholesale boutique clothing suppliers domestically if that is the route you are looking to go down.
Advantages of Overseas Clothing Suppliers
The other option available for you is overseas manufacturing. This one too comes with a few advantages of its own such as lower manufacturing costs. This is especially true if you compare it to manufacturers in America. That’s unfortunately due to lower labor standards and lower quality products. On the plus side, there are a lot of wholesale vendors to choose from, especially clothing suppliers. Because of services like AliExpress, it’s easy to get started working with overseas suppliers.
Disadvantages of Overseas Clothing Suppliers
Some of the other disadvantages include longer shipping time as most of these manufacturers are in China. It’s going to take longer to deliver the product to your customer in North America. You might occasionally run into issues with customs too. You won’t be able to visit the manufacturers in person, at least not cheaply. Verifying products could be a big hassle if not a big problem. Cultural differences and language barriers could cause more errors, mistakes, and headaches for you.
Where to Buy Wholesale Clothing
1. Wholesale Marketplaces
When you’re ready to find good quality, legitimate suppliers to buy from immediately, you’ll want to head to an online wholeale marketplace. This is a platform where you’ll find thousands of products from hundreds of suppliers.
If you are US-based, I highly recommend trying Handshake, Shopify’s own wholesale marketplace. Handshake is free to join and you’ll immediately be able to browse and buy from a ton of suppliers who have been pre-checked for quality and reliability. Alternative wholesale marketplaces include Faire, Abound, Bulletin, and more.
2. Online Directories
The best way to start your search for a vendor is through free online directories. This is true for both domestic US and overseas suppliers.
For domestic US directories I recommend getting started with Maker’s Row, ThomasNet, let’s make it here, or Sqetch. If you’re interested in overseas suppliers you could start with Alibaba and IndiaMart. However, I highly recommend using AliExpress for a dropshipping business. They have a very good list of wholesale clothing providers. They have over 700,000 suppliers from Asia and millions of products to choose from.
3. Search Engines
Another thing you can try is just Google Searching “Whole Clothing Suppliers” or being more niche like “Wholesale Clothing USA”. Most of the suppliers’ websites are old and outdated. Google rewards websites that are constantly updated so the manufacturers will be buried. That’s why they won’t rank high on a search. You will have to dig deep into page 5 or 6 of your search to find anything useful. I don’t recommend doing this unless you have plenty of time and patience.
4. Word of Mouth Referrals
If you’re still unsure about where to find a vendor try relying on word of mouth referrals. If you know people who buy clothing at wholesale prices,ask them for recommendations. Contact people who might be able to help you, even if you don’t know them personally. People are always willing to help if you know how to ask them.
5. Social Media Groups and Forums
If you’re still uncomfortable in reaching out you can try online forms which discuss clothing and more specifically wholesale clothing. Also, do some research on social media as well. There is already plenty of information out there for you to read and it can be easy to find people looking to share their knowledge. Also look for forums that talk about clothing suppliers and vendors.
6. Trade Events
If you’ve got the time and the money you might consider going to trade shows. It’s just one more option for you to look into. 10times and Trade Show News Network will help locate a trade show in your area. You can go and check out the individual wholesalers in person. You can speak with their representatives. It will be an opportunity to network and buy wholesale clothing. Who knows what you might discover at such events?
How to Buy Wholesale Clothing: Vetting Suppliers
Now that you know where to buy wholesale clothing, it’s time to vet suppliers so you can purchase bulk wholesale clothes for your store. In most cases, you will need to request a quote and start to build a relationship with different wholesale clothing vendors to choose which one to do business with.
Your first communication with the supplier is likely going to be a request for quotation.
Request for quotation, RFQ, is the name of the game with wholesale vendors of any kind. It’s the only way to find out the prices from a supplier; you’ll get the hang of it very quickly because you will be doing it often.
Basically, you’re sending an email asking how much something is based on the quantity you want to buy. However, nothing is this simple. You should treat it as a serious business inquiry instead of an IM between you and the provider.
You should plan your email to get the best possible response. Don’t waste your time by going back and forth on missing pieces of information.
You want to be informed on a few things starting with the vendor’s minimum order quantity, MOQ.
This differs from supplier to supplier. You need to know if you can afford and handle the minimum quantity they are selling. The other most important question you need to ask: how much their products will cost you.
Most suppliers do high discount pricing for higher quantity orders. Ask for the price of various quantities to get a feel for their production pricing.
#3 Shipping Times
Next, you need to find out the delivery time and shipping terms.. Timing is everything in an ecommerce business. How long does it take them to ship the item to your customer is an important question also. You need to know if an item will take a long time to ship, or not.
Additionally, you’ll also need to ask about their payment terms to make sure you’re okay with how they charge for their products. As with everything, it varies depending on the supplier. You don’t want to be surprised about how they expect you to pay for the inventory.
#4 Sample Orders
The very last thing you want to ask is about their samples. Some suppliers provide discounted rates for them, some don’t. It’s important to ask and to order some if you can afford it. This way, you’ll get a feel for the products you will be selling to your own customer.
This last step of contacting the supplier for an RFQ will ultimately let you judge them to be a good fit for you. If they are not, move on to the next one, there are plenty to choose from.
For an online clothing brand, the need to buy wholesale clothing will arise sooner than later. It’s a matter of doing your due diligence and researching clothing wholesalers on various platforms. After all, you need to find the perfect one. The one that will supply you the products you want for the right price. It’s a lot of screening, but it’s all worth it in the end when you’ll have happy paying customers.