How to Start a Clothing Wholesale Business

by Claudia Bruemmer

If you’re thinking of starting a new online business, you might want to consider a clothing wholesale business. It’s easier than being a retailer because instead of selling merchandise directly to the public, you sell to retailers and other jobbers after buying in bulk from distributors and manufacturers at wholesale. Then you add a markup and resell with the markup being your profit after deducting business expenses.

Depending on how small your clothing wholesale business is, you can start from your garage and ultimately get a warehouse when you expand. One of the first things you need to do is to register your business with the local county clerk’s office. You might want to obtain a Doing Business As (DBA) or Assumed Name certificate before starting your business. See the check list below for more items that need attention before you start your business.

• Apply for a Reseller Permit through your state comptroller’s office or website. You can’t buy directly from manufacturers or distributors without this permit. It also allows you to buy in bulk without paying taxes.
• Open a business bank account, establishing a merchant account so you can accept electronic payments.
• Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you plan to hire employees or if you incorporate your business.
• Maintain an accurate accounting of your business sales and expenses for year-end tax purposes.

• Order business stationery and business cards for your clothing wholesale business. This makes you look professional no matter how big or small your business is.

Now, we’re ready to start in earnest, and the first thing you need to do is decide if you want to be a general clothing wholesaler or if you want to specialize in a vertical niche. General clothing wholesalers sell clothes of all sizes for men, women and children, whereas a niche wholesaler would specialize in one area, like menswear, for instance. Your decision determines how you set up your clothing wholesale business. If you decide to specialize in a niche, or you order from overseas manufacturers, beware of imitation merchandise from China, Korea and the Philippines.

Next, you need to find clothing distributors and manufacturers online and contact them. Two vertical wholesale search engines you might try are http://www.toptenwholesale.com/ and http://www.manufacturer.com/. You can research on these sites, contacting different clothing wholesale manufacturers to ask for their catalog and price list for the merchandise you wish to sell. You should take the time to research these suppliers by visiting their warehouse and buying some sample items. This allows you to determine if the merchandise meets your quality standards.

Communicate with the owner or manager by phone or email to find out what’s required to order in bulk. Usually, each manufacturer or distributor has a different minimum order requirement. Also ask about their return policy, shipping, restocking fees, ordering deadlines and quality guarantees.  Investigate several wholesalers to compare quality and pricing before making a decision. You don’t want to get stuck with inferior merchandise or pay too high a price. When you finish investigating, you can complete a wholesale application from the suppliers you have chosen.

Many manufacturers in China, India and other foreign countries offer very low prices because the cost of labor is cheap. That’s why you must examine the merchandise before deciding to buy from foreign manufacturers, or from any manufacturer for that matter.

If you can’t travel yourself to foreign countries, you can hire an import agent to do your bidding for you on foreign soil. In fact, you might want to get help from experienced professionals to ensure all import documents are in order and in compliance with all international treaties and trade agreements. See my article, The ABCs of Importing Goods into the U.S. for more details on importing goods into the U.S.

In closing, it’s a good idea to start small initially and add merchandise to your wholesale business a little at a time. That way, you won’t get stuck with a lot of poor quality merchandise that’s going to be hard to sell.


Author:  Claudia Bruemmer

Claudia Bruemmer is a contributor to the TopTenWholesale Newsroom. Experience includes: Copy Editor SearchEngineLand (2012-present), Managing Editor ClickZ (1998-2001), Editor SearchEngineWatch (2007-2008) and freelance writer/editor since 2001 for SEMPO, ImediaConnection, SearchMarketingStandard, SearchEngineGuide, BruceClay and other sites. Prior to online work, Bruemmer was a Tech Writer for many years.


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