India’s apparel industry has grown substantially in the last few years, with the market expected to further grow from USD 150 billion in 2020 to more than USD 220 billion by 2026.
The previous decade has witnessed a rapid boom in the ecommerce space and the momentum is expected to sustain in the years to come. In the online retail space, online fashion stores saw a huge upsurge in demand and clocked 51% growth in India.
Numbers prove that the online fashion market continues to thrive even in the midst of an uncertain economy. In fact, experts foresee a compound annual growth of 19.24% in India’s ecommerce, with clothing being one of the key drivers.
Higher disposable income has put more money in the hands of Indians, and clothes are something on which most people do not compromise. The demand is clear and the market, ever-growing. With the right business strategy, selling clothes online can be a highly profitable business idea. But how do you start one?
If you are thinking of starting an online clothing store, let us tell you that a key factor in cracking the code of success in this business is building a strong network of suppliers.
You can source clothes from manufacturers or wholesalers, but given that most online businesses do not want to lock too much capital in the beginning, manufacturers fall out of the picture as they require huge order commitments. Thus, wholesale clothing suppliers will be your go-to people for procuring clothes.
With thousands of local and international suppliers to choose from, finding a credible and quality-conscious wholesale clothing supplier may seem intimidating. To help you in your journey, we’ve written this tell-all blog about wholesale clothing suppliers that will help you crack the right formula for building a strong wholesaler network for your online business.
About the wholesale clothing industry
Wholesaling is quite common in the apparel industry. Before we look at the benefits of using wholesale suppliers, let’s start with a brief overview of who they are and what they do.
Wholesale suppliers are like middlemen who buy products from the manufacturers in large quantities and sell them to small businesses or retailers. Some common wholesaler types include:
1. Merchant wholesalers: Merchant wholesalers purchase goods from manufacturers in bulk, store inventory and distribute it. Merchant wholesalers can be further divided into –
Full-service wholesalers: These wholesalers take care of the business process from start to finish. They buy the products, store them, and deliver them to the retailers.
Limited-service wholesalers: As the name suggests, these wholesalers only handle one or two specific services such as storing inventory, sales operations, or deliveries.
2. Agent, brokers or commission wholesalers: These wholesalers function the same as merchant wholesalers except that they don’t own the products. They work on a commission basis and usually handle sales for the manufacturers.
Based on your preferred services, you can opt for either of the aforementioned suppliers. Ensure that you thoroughly study the supplier’s terms before issuing any purchase orders to them.
Now that we know who wholesale clothing suppliers are, let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of dealing with them.
Advantages of using wholesale clothing suppliers
Low prices: Wholesalers believe in selling in lots rather than providing just one or two pieces. They believe in economies of scale, that is, dealing in volumes. So you can expect to purchase products at extremely competitive rates, provided you are willing to buy in lots. It does not mean you have to place orders of the size that wholesalers place on manufacturers. But, do not expect to receive low prices when you go to the wholesaler expecting to buy just one or two clothes. Most wholesalers are more than willing to offer low prices, but you have to put some skin in the game and offer them a decent order value.
Healthy margins: This benefit directly ties in with the first one. If you get your products at a lower cost, you’ll have an opportunity to earn better profit margins. The healthy margins also help you to offer discounts to your own online customers and remain competitive.
Access to a wide variety of designs in one place: Wholesalers usually deal with multiple manufacturers, and thus have a large selection of designs for you to choose from.
Return unsold stock: Most wholesale clothing suppliers allow you the flexibility to return unsold garments. Of course, the clothes should be in a sellable condition upon return as well. Before you buy wholesale items, check with your preferred supplier if they have any specific return policies. It is better to have the return policy in writing rather than just relying on word-of-mouth assurances. Ensure that you also draft your own return policy that aligns with the return policy of your wholesalers.
Quality products: As wholesale suppliers get their inventory directly from the manufacturers, they don’t go through multiple transfers like retail inventory. The clothes are defect-free and less tampered with as there is no middleman involved.
Never run out of inventory: Wholesale clothing suppliers won’t keep you waiting when you’re running low on inventory. Their core USP is stocking inventory and supplying it in time, and they will never really run out of inventory unless there is some massive supply chain issue. You can always count on them to receive inventory as and when needed, but ensure that you place orders in advance during festivals and holiday seasons when demand is usually high and they have several orders to fulfil.
Disadvantages of using wholesale clothing suppliers
Payment against delivery: One of the downsides of buying from wholesalers is that you have to pay for the products upfront. Payment guarantee is one major reason why they offer you clothes at such low prices. It may be hard to find wholesale suppliers who offer clothes on a full credit basis, especially to new businesses.
- Difficult to negotiate special pricing & terms: As wholesale suppliers deal with hundreds of buyers, they set standard prices and terms to avoid any confusion and keep operations streamlined. Negotiations and bargaining can be even more difficult when purchasing from an online wholesaler. There is very little room for additional negotiations and bargaining, unless, of course, you have a unique proposition for them.
11 factors to consider while searching for the right wholesale clothing supplier
Here are some factors that may help you evaluate and select the right wholesale supplier for your online business:
Product quality: Without a doubt, product quality is one of the most important aspects of the clothing industry. Look for suppliers who offer high-quality garments sourced directly from reputed manufacturers. Most reputed wholesalers have detailed catalogues with high-quality product images that can give you an idea of the brands or items they stock. Before drafting your contract, decide who will handle quality-related complaints from customers.
Market reputation: When you partner with someone in business, you want to make sure that they are reliable and have an unstained reputation. Browse online and do your due diligence to learn about the wholesale supplier. As most wholesalers have online storefronts or websites, check customer reviews about them before finalising your association with them.
MOQ: Minimum Order Quantity is the lowest number of units that the wholesaler is willing to sell. Understand the MOQ requirements of the wholesaler in detail to know how much money you will have to invest in purchasing stock. In the beginning, it is wise to purchase from wholesalers who offer a low MOQ, even if the per-unit cost is a bit higher. This is a way to offset the risk of being saddled with too much inventory, in case the product does not receive the response that you had previously expected.
Discounts & packaging: Discounts are crucial to sustaining any business. The higher the discount you get from the wholesaler, the better it is. Additionally, you can also ask for a settlement or trade discount when buying more. Don’t shy away from negotiating. As long as it’s a win-win for you and the supplier, you can expect a good deal.
Returns & payment policy: Return policy must be considered as an essential factor in finalising your deal with a wholesale clothing supplier. Your chosen supplier must ideally accept unsold products, with no or minimal return charges. Apart from returns, check for the supplier’s payment terms, including deposits and monthly or quarterly payment options. If a wholesaler isn’t open for negotiations from the start, it’ll be harder to work with them in the future.
Specialisation: Wholesalers who specialise in selling only clothes, rather than several other apparel and products, usually have better manufacturer tie-ups and can offer much better designs and purchase terms. The simple reason is their sole focus on one product – clothes. This allows them to negotiate and deal better with manufacturers, and give you better offers.
You can go even further and focus on category-specific wholesalers. For example, if you are looking to venture into vintage fashion clothing, search specifically for wholesalers specialising in that category since it is a relatively niche space.
Lead time: Lead time can be defined as the time taken between the ordering and delivery of items. Just like MOQ, a shorter lead time ensures that you get your hands on the inventory faster. In terms of pre-orders, this can aid in faster deliveries for customers.
Sample order policy: This factor can be really beneficial when you order wholesale garments for the first time or experiment with a new style. With sample orders, you can get insights on customer preferences and demand before investing in larger orders to wholesale clothing suppliers.
Study tie-ups of wholesalers with manufacturers: Wholesale suppliers are usually in direct link with the clothing manufacturers. The stronger a supplier’s tie-up with a manufacturer, the better the price and service you get.
While looking for wholesalers, feel free to ask wholesalers details about their sourcing model – do they source directly from manufacturers or from some mega-distributor, since how many years are they dealing in those products, how does the manufacturer deal with quality concerns, etc.
From the quality perspective, it is better if the wholesaler directly deals with manufacturers. However, never reject wholesalers outright if they buy clothes from some source other than manufacturers, like mega-distributors or super-stockists. Always check the product quality, hear their terms, and then make your decision.
Dropshipping option: Online businesses can benefit from wholesalers who offer dropshipping services. Dropshipping eliminates your responsibility in stocking and shipping the items as the order is directly shipped from the wholesaler’s warehouse to your customer. This service usually has a price attached to it. However, before you start using a wholesaler for dropshipping, place a few orders for yourself and other close ones to get a sense of how much attention the wholesaler gives to packaging.
Location of wholesale suppliers: The supplier’s location can affect the lead time and shipping charges. Suppose you’re looking for international suppliers, factor in the extra taxes, freight policies, and shipping options that could potentially affect your business.
Domestic vs Overseas wholesale clothing suppliers
Wholesale clothing is global, and you can easily find international suppliers online. You can choose to connect with an overseas wholesaler or work with a local wholesaler. It all depends on your business requirements and what you aim to achieve with your store.
For example, you get faster and cheaper shipping with a domestic supplier than an international one. Similarly, you may find some stand-out apparel from an overseas supplier which is not available in India.
Take into account factors like manufacturing costs, product quality and variety, payment options and labour standards too.
Where to find wholesale clothing suppliers?
Online marketplaces: There are several online marketplaces that can help you find thousands of wholesale suppliers. IndiaMART and TradeIndia are two reliable websites that offer free directories of manufacturers and wholesale clothing suppliers in one place. You can look up products by searching with specific keywords in the directory. Look for verification checkmarks and ratings to gauge the credibility of the suppliers.
Visit exhibitions and trade shows: Visiting trade shows or fashion exhibitions can provide you with networking opportunities to grow your business. You can meet with multiple wholesale suppliers and have your questions answered in person. An added advantage of attending these shows is that you’ll get updates about the current or upcoming fashion trends.
You can sign up for notifications from associations like CMAI that sponsor and promote garment fairs and trade shows.
Simply search for wholesalers online: Search engines can be really helpful in leading you to potential wholesale suppliers. However, you must be careful of unverified or scam suppliers. Assess the wholesaler’s website and find their contact details. The websites can also give you an idea of their product offerings, prices and focus areas.
Search for wholesalers on social media: A lot of wholesalers have an active social presence to capitalise on social media marketing. You can contact the suppliers by sending them direct messages on their social profiles. Additionally, you can use targeted keywords to filter your search. For starters, try #wholesaleclothingsupplier or #clothingwholesaler.
Join Telegram and Facebook business groups: Facebook business groups allow wholesalers to build an exclusive community and connect with resellers directly. Community members get access to exclusive offers and content from the suppliers. You can also find supplier contacts on Telegram and WhatsApp groups.
Contact manufacturers directly: If you want to stock up on inventory from specific brands, why not contact them directly? Most brands have their contact information for business queries on their FAQ or Contact Us pages. The brand’s business team would most likely direct you to their wholesalers. This would also help eliminate any doubts you have about the supplier’s trustworthiness.
You can also subscribe to textile trade publications or engage on LinkedIn or online forums to get more information on wholesale clothing suppliers. If you’re interested in a wholesale dropshipping supplier, check out Oberlo.
Best wholesale clothing websites in India
So far, we’ve discussed the pros and cons of wholesale, along with how and where you can find a suitable wholesale supplier. Let’s look at some popular wholesale clothing websites in India:
- Textile Export
- Wholesale Market Surat (WMS)
*Please note that the above list is a numbered list and does not indicate ranking
Ready to shop & ship?
With the emergence of online wholesale suppliers, it is easier to browse product catalogues and check brand reviews. Take your time researching multiple suppliers and choose the one you find credible.
Partnering with the right wholesale clothing supplier can benefit small businesses with economical prices and offer a variety of styles for the target customers. A network of reliable wholesale suppliers will help you get access to good-quality clothes at the most competitive prices, which in turn will help you pass on the same benefits to your customers. With this increased capability, you can also look at boosting your sales.
Line about store – Online is the future of business and if you’re aiming for increased sales in your apparel business, now’s the time to set up an online clothing store. Already have an online store? Optimise your store to drive higher sales by offering better customer support through features like live chat and WhatsApp integration.
To know more about selling online, visit Shopify.
Wholesale clothing FAQ
What is the difference between wholesale and retail?
Retail and wholesale are two major systems that make up the distribution process. A wholesaler buys from the manufacturer and sells it to retailers or resellers. Meanwhile, a retailer aims to sell the products to the end customer. Wholesale suppliers mostly deal with bulk order supplies while retailers sell in small quantities. Wholesale also requires a larger investment capital when compared to retail.
How do I set up an online wholesale store?
To set up an online wholesale store, you need to have a business strategy in place. This includes everything from coming up with a business or domain name to getting a wholesaler licence. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can create an online website or create a storefront on Shopify to sell wholesale goods.
What are the best wholesale clothing websites?
Some notable wholesale clothing websites in India are:
- Textile Export
How do you find a good quality wholesale clothing distributor?
Start by browsing online to find a list of wholesale clothing distributors. You can connect with suppliers on various marketplaces like IndiaMart or Etsy. Ask around by visiting trade shows or joining business groups on social media. Ensure that you perform market research and find reviews for the shortlisted suppliers.
Can I buy directly from a manufacturer?
It may be considerably tough to buy straight from a manufacturer. Unless you’re dealing with an indie brand that offers limited stock, most medium to big-sized brands prefer supplying bulk inventory to wholesalers or major retailers.