If you’ve got a question about your ebusiness, someone else has probably already asked it. Matt Hedges, customer support manager of Worldwidebrands.com, answers the six most common productsourcing questions he gets from customers wanting to start an online endeavor:
Will suppliers care if I’m a new online retailer working from home?
Generally no. Says Hedges, “They want to get their product out to consumers as much as possible, so they’re looking to open new accounts.”
How can I convey to a supplier that I’m a serious professional, not a fly-by-night home business?
Before you call or email questions to a supplier, read its website. More often than not the answers are right in front of you. Taking up their time with questions you could have easily found an answer to yourself reflects poorly on you.
If you email or call a supplier — get to the point! Real wholesale suppliers are very busy people. They want to help their retailers but they don’t have a lot of time for chitchat so try and get to the meat of your question as quickly as possible.
Proofread and spell check your emails. It’s very difficult to look professional if your email is full of typos, sentence fragments and run-ons.
Be patient. Just because a supplier doesn’t respond to your questions the same day you send them is no reason to get agitated. If they think you’re going to be a demanding customer, chances are they won’t work with you.
I found a supplier I want to work with. What’s my first step?
Your first step is to check for an online account setup form and then fill it out. Real wholesale suppliers need proof you are a legitimate retailer before they can give you access to their actual wholesale pricing structure and set up an account. So step 1 is submitting your company information to them. You will need to have a registered business name and tax ID to work with real wholesalers. If you don’t have one, they are easy to get. Just contact your local county clerk’s office.
I only want to sell popular, name-brand items – how do I get a supplier?
You can’t afford to limit yourself to selling only brands you recognize. Your research should predicate your product line. Many brands you’ve never heard of are very popular within certain demographics.
Should I be focusing on “hot sellers” like iPods, gaming consoles, designer clothes and DVDs?
Can I drop ship them? Once everyone knows an item is hot, the market becomes saturated. The demand is there, but the supply is, too. Everyone’s trying to undercut everyone else and the profit margins get really slim.
Also, the manufacturers of these items set astronomical buying minimums — say $100,000 each contract term. You could mortgage your house to meet the minimum, and your wholesale prices would still be much higher than those of the chains that get additional discounts for spending millions with the suppliers.
Finding a supplier who’ll drop ship these items individually is almost impossible. It’s cost-prohibitive for them — especially in clothing where the return rates tend to be high. And again, your wholesale rate for one item won’t let you compete with someone buying in bulk.
There’s an item I really want to sell, but I can’t find a supplier who’ll work with me – what now?
Keep looking. If after you’ve researched, you still can’t find a supplier for that particular item, don’t give up altogether on having an ebusiness — just consider other product options. There are millions of products you can sell. Hedges says, “You can find items that you can actually compete with, but you have to base your product choices off your market research.”