How to approach wholesalers

Don't be scared - bargains await

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As you have proof of trading, which can be as little as a letterhead or business card, you are entitled to deal with a wholesaler. Suppliers need business as much as you do, so there's little chance you will be turned away. So be confident when approaching them and focus your concerns on getting a good deal for your small business.

It is important that you actually visit the wholesaler in person. Telephone calls and emails generally being poor substitutes. Wholesalers are quite traditional in their practices, so the chances of getting hold of an email address to contact them are slim, while the chances of actually getting a reply are, on the whole, waif-like.

Remember, while you are busy firing off emails to your wholesaler, other customers are being shown potential bargains that you could be getting your hands on if you had made the effort to turn up and have a look yourself.

There is, similarly, limited amounts you can do over the telephone. Your supplier will be happy to send you a list of stock and the relevant prices, but to gain a proper understanding of what you are ploughing your wholesaling budget into it is vital you have a face-to-face meeting.

The visit

However, it is highly advisable to phone ahead before your visit. To save yourself from a wasted journey it is best to find out in advance if your wholesaler has the goods you require. Stock changes every day in a wholesaler, so lists you receive a week in advance will be out of date by the time you turn up to purchase the items that you need.

Many wholesalers also like to assign certain visiting times for customers to look at stock – this is particularly the case with larger and more popular suppliers. Wholesalers with valuable items that require supervised visits will also need you to call ahead. Policies vary according to the supplier so check out their procedures before you turn up.

The time that you actually visit is up to you, but be aware that the busiest time for a wholesaler will be around midday, when shop owners converge to purchase stock for their stores. If you arrive around 4pm, you will have a less frantic search for your goods as this is the wholesaler's quietest period. You will also benefit from more attention from the wholesale staff, as they will have fewer customers to deal with.

The downside is that stock you have turned up to buy may have already gone, so, again, it is vital that you call ahead to check on what stock is still available. Striking the right balance is important, so don't be put off if it takes a few visits before you get it right.

Policies vary according to the supplier so check out their procedures before you turn up.

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