Online retail is big business—it’s estimated that by 2010, 13% of all retail transactions will occur online. That’s a significant rise from 3% in 1999. Maybe that’s why it’s becoming easier to find things to sell online—more and more wholesalers and manufacturers are willing to work with internet retailers. Not all, but many are seeing great potential in using web stores as a product outlet.
No Business like Show Business
Finding legitimate suppliers isn’t always easy—there are a lot of middlemen out there claiming to be the real thing. One excellent resource is tradeshows and gift shows—every exhibitor at these shows is authentic. They’re great for making supplier connections—most shows consist of several buildings jammed with booths of genuine wholesalers and manufacturers looking to set up new accounts. Not everyone there will be inclined to work with internet sellers, but you’ll find many who are willing to talk with you and give you the information you need.
Because exhibitors pay a lot of money to be at these shows, they don’t want the general public window-shopping out of curiosity. They want an audience comprised of their target market—retailers. That’s why to get into a tradeshow, you have to prove you’re a legitimate retail business:
• You’ll need a business license and a tax ID number.
• You may need a commercial checking account—they’ll want to see checks with your business’ name on them.
• Many shows require additional credentials, such as business cards and letterhead.
• Some want to see a purchase order that shows that your company buys in that particular industry.
In addition to the wholesalers you’ll meet at tradeshows, there are many good manufacturers overseas who are willing to work with you. Says Skip McGrath (SkipMcGrath.com), author of The Wholesale Buying System, “There are some good search engines out there to find these overseas manufacturers, such as AliBaba.com, GlobalSources.com, and GlobalSourcesDirect.com.” However, there are certain things you should look at when considering which companies to work with:
• Do they have an office or a representative here in the U.S.? Importing directly is an incredibly complex process—having stateside support, to make the arrangements and have everything delivered to you, can make your initial experience much less stressful.
• Have they been vetted? These search engines are advertising-supported, which means that anyone can list products there. You’ll find scammers and counterfeit merchandise alongside the real manufacturers. Many of the engines have “gold suppliers” who’ve been checked out and qualified—consider limiting your buying to those who’ve obtained that stamp of approval.
You’re not going to find a magic product that you can sell online and make a fortune—there’s no such thing. Explains McGrath, “Different products are sourced differently.” You have to use multiple sourcing methods—wholesalers, importers, distributors, and manufacturers—to get the best assortment of products for your online business.