Last week’s blog post was about buying your craft supplies direct from China. We talked a bit about my recent experience doing it as well as the general positives and negatives to getting your supplies via this avenue.
But what if you have a small business (especially those of us who work for ourselves) and buying supplies in small numbers is getting more frequent but also more costly? At what point do you think about switching to buying stock in larger quantities from a wholesaler and setting up a wholesale account?
The answer is multifaceted, but the two main things to ask yourself if you are thinking of doing it is a: do you have an obvious way to sell what you have in stock (website, stall etc) and b: are you comfortable with having to lay out the money for the stuff you want to sell on, while it is in between being sold and not being sold.
In the case of the Studio, we started to carry items that people needed when they were taking their workshop. It just kind of happened in that people would ask me, “do you sell rotary cutters” after I showed them how to cut binding using them, and I kept having to say no. Which got a bit tiresome as they were not readily available in the local area which meant most people had to go on-line. So deciding to take the leap into having stock was dictated by the people that came to the workshops and their needs, as well as having an outlet to sell them in.
So I decided to look into where I could get stock but that raised the next question….where do I find out about wholesalers? I had never really dealt with a wholesaler before and didn’t know what to expect in terms of setting up an account (other than you needed to be a bonified business). And people don’t really tell you who their wholesaler is as they don’t want to give away who they buy from (which is completely understandable but makes it doubly hard!).
There is a listing of wholesalers at The Sewing Directory – this wasn’t around when I was looking, but that would have been a good place to start. (Having looked at the list when writing this post, the wholesalers I now use aren’t listed but more on that in a minute). I was very lucky in that the people who work for me at the Studio – tutors, sewing machine technicians etc – all gave me great advice on places that they knew of and said they were just what I was looking for. And they were right as I now toggle between three different wholesalers to get what I need based on these recommendations.
Why three? Because I can bounce between the three depending on what I need. As an example, the price difference between them for acrylic rulers is such that I only buy them from the one wholesaler but the cutting mats from another.
But the odd thing is that the ones that I use now I ended up finding out through a variety of sources, but none of them were listing in a directory. I guess like any industry, some companies take the time to market themselves and some don’t. So doing a bit of research may be required as well. If you want to do a bit of research for what is available, my top tips (I have used them all!) would be:
1. Go to trade fairs in your industry. Larger trade fairs (most tend to be based either at the NEC or in London) tend to be a mix of vendors that sell to the trade and trade that sells to the public. The website should list who is attending, with a brief description of what they sell, to help you get your list together of who might be worth meeting if you decide it is worthwhile to go.
2. If you are part of a closed members forum on a Facebook group, the members are normally more open about who they use. That is where I found my first wholesaler (who did eventually go bust but that led on to other wholesalers who were even better!).
3. You can try and just Google what you are looking for -again, there tends to be limited luck on that front but you would be surprised what you can find out!
4. And this one is definitely one that is a bit different but it can work! I was at a haberdashery in York and I noticed they had a delivery arrive, which was being dropped off by the front door and then ferried into the back. I took note of the labels and where they were from ( I guess the really bold could take a photo with their phone), did a Google search when I got home and guess what…I found yet another wholesaler!
So finding a wholesaler can be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes affair but you can find them. I know for me, it allows me to offer another service to those that come to the Studio and one that helps raise my profile.
So if you are thinking about buying from wholesalers – I hope you have found this helpful and there is no harm in doing a bit of research!