by Carolyn Edlund
Artists and makers selling in the wholesale marketplace have virtual options to connect with customers. Here’s where to find them.
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If you create handmade products and desire to sell them wholesale, you may exhibit your work at trade shows. These huge markets are a traditional way to display your line to store buyers and take orders on the spot. In-person contact is the best way to meet potential customers of all types, giving them the chance to view your collection, handle products and meet you as the creator. But trade shows can be an expensive proposition, and your exposure is limited to your exhibition dates.
To expand the reach of their exhibitors, trade show promoters have developed virtual showrooms. These can be accessed by wholesale buyers via desktop and mobile apps. New York NOW, for instance, offers a digital market solution as an add-on to their exhibitor package that offers access to ecommerce sales—but this is only for the duration of the live event.
Meanwhile, online wholesale portals have popped up that act as permanent virtual trade shows. They offer curated collections and favorable terms for buyers, as well as long-term exposure for producing artists and makers.
Wholesale portals that cater to creative entrepreneurs include:
All of these sites feature handmade goods and indie brands, either partially or exclusively. Visit any of them to view product listings and get an idea of their target audience. Their main menus have searchable categories, while they promote new collections or highlight vendors on their Home pages. Typical categories include Gift, Fashion, Home Decor, Garden, Stationery, Accessories, and Beauty and Wellness, among others. Some portals display wholesale prices openly, while others require retailers to sign up to view them.
Features and Benefits
What makes these online wholesale portals appealing? For buyers, they may require no minimum order, give 60 days to pay, or even allow the return of unsold merchandise. Sellers may be guaranteed quick payment on orders to avoid cash flow problems, get help with logistics and use an on-site inventory and order management system. Overall, wholesale portals can offer a secure and trustworthy environment in which to do business. They introduce new lines of merchandise and make it easy to get started.
The cost to use online portals varies and takes different forms. Costs may include a startup fee, annual fee, sales commissions or other model. Tundra, for example, doesn’t take commissions; instead, they earn revenue through paid ads. Handshake is part of Shopify, and doesn’t charge fees or commissions, but sellers must be paying Shopify customers to use the portal. Wholesale portals that charge commission may have special terms. Opening orders may incur a higher commission rate, which decreases with repeat orders. If you bring one of your existing wholesale buyers into the fold and receive orders through the platform, commissions may be lowered or eliminated. Check the FAQ section on each provider’s website to learn their terms.
Exposure through a wholesale portal can give you lots of exposure and gain you “approval” as a player in the marketplace. These providers aim to provide a secure place for buyers to shop, while resolving disputes, preventing fraud and guaranteeing payments. They are curated and in high demand, which can be a barrier to becoming a vendor.
Wholesale portals may be useful for growing your business, but they’re not right for everyone. Evaluate your own needs first, then determine whether online wholesale is a viable option.
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