Wholesale refers to a type of business that buys products in bulk from a maker and sells them in a retail environment of some sort — that is who we are talking about here.
Distribution refers to a middleman between makers, wholesalers and retailers. “Wholesale” and “distribution” can sometimes get blurred, so for the point of this memo, distributors are a group that physically moves the makers product from place to place (UNFI, KEHO, PodFoods) and while they may or may not buy wholesale, we are not talking about them in this memo.
In order to diversify your revenue streams and your customer base you want to sell in bulk at a lower price per unit to retailers and anyone else who will buy your product this way. You might not care who buys your product as long as it sells, or you might have a very specific idea of where and how you want to sell your product in the market.
Explain how your product will grow overall sales for the category and, or, bring new customers to their physical or digital store. Can your product make them money and make them special? That is what helps retailers.
- Digitize Your Sell Sheet: The days of printed sell sheets are gone there are plenty of no code tools to quickly turn your sell sheet into an interactive one page pdf or html file. Don’t forget, everything you do digitally is your sell sheet now. Your brands Instagram, LinkedIn, website — all of it.
- Get listed on e*wholesale sites: There are plenty of companies aiming to “disrupt” traditional wholesale. Research them, and if the terms are acceptable and align with your goals, get listed. Where do I find a list? There is a starter list of “Contenders” below.
- Create your own e*wholesale site: If you have the means, or the chops, skip right to creating your own e*wholesale site. This gives you the most control, flexibility, branding, and creates the best long term relationships with your retailers. You can do this using your current Shopify or WooCommerce store. Who is doing this well? Olipop is.
- Faire Based in San Francisco, founded by a Square veterans, and they have raised quite a war chest of funding. The platform has wholesale minimums, and you will get exposure to over 75,000 retailers. Custom domain is possible, so you can dabble into direct e*wholesale here if you aren’t ready to take the full leap. Terms: First time store orders are a commission of 25%, then it drops to 15% on reorders. Net 60 payment terms + free returns.
- Tundra Over 150,000 products and you can upload directly from your Shopify store, or just send them a CSV download of your products. Ad-supported model, and brands only pay if they want analytics or promotions. Terms: Zero-commission model.
- Hubba This Toronto based company focuses on getting bespoke retailers and brands connected. Serving up 1000s of high quality emerging brands to 100s of independent retailers is their current focus. Terms: 10% of the wholesale price
- RangeMe One of the original e*wholesale marketplaces Walmart, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, all are use it, at least from time to time. While makers go back and fourth about if they premium membership is worth it, the company doesn’t collect any commissions, so getting your digital sell sheet up on this service is priced at a flat fee. Terms: Partner pricing is $600 for the first year of membership.
- Meet Mable Founded by a grocery store owner, Mable is the new kid on the block and focuses on grocery, convenience, and indy stores. Terms: Flat 10% commission on orders from new relationships established on Mable. Any orders processed via Mable from your existing relationships are free.
What about slotting fees, spending money to add doors and the current in flux state of physical retail? Let your online business show you the way to what the best retail relationships are to build now, later, and whether those are digital, physical or both. Spend time with your digital customers. Timing is everything, sometimes the thing you want most is the thing you need least. Listen to the Keepers’ Sparkling Coffee story.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The same way traditional office software has started to resemble consumer software over the last decade (See Slack) e*wholesale is changing the way physical goods are bought and sold by retailers of all sizes. These new contenders are improving the digital wholesale experience by going niche and making it easier for buyers and sellers to connect. Hacking your own e*wholesale site, or creating wholesale demand using other digital channels creates increasing brand advantages . However, it doesn’t matter where you start, just pick a path and dive in and start to think and execute your wholesale strategy digitally — this is the way.