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Locating Wholesalers Online
Expert: Julie King
I am interested in starting a business of my own. It would be like a Claire's or Ardene's accessory store. I am trying to find some suppliers or wholesalers of accessories such as jewelry, handbags, hair accessories. I am looking for a certain type, such as that for kids, teens, and younger adults. Where can I find information like this?
Also, can you direct me to any site that would be able to help me in deciding whether this business would be viable or not? I live in a community of about 2500 with small communities surrounding us. We are a growing community and have tourists coming year round for the mineral spa here. Can you help?
Julie King answered:
Your question has two components, which we'll address separately.
Wholesale accessory sources
The Internet is a great resource for locating wholesalers, but that does not mean that the process is always easy! We've helped several others in the past understand the process ... here is a run-down on how we approach locating industry-specific wholesalers online.
1) Start in a major search engine, such as AltaVista or Excite: www.altavista.com and www.excite.com, respectively. Perform a few related keyword searches to see what sort of results you get. You can use wildcards (*) in many search engines to instruct the engine to include multiple variations of a word. For example, if you want to search for wholesaler, wholesale and wholesalers, use wholesale* in your search query on AltaVista. Essentially, the wildcard (*) tells the search engine to search for documents that include the word wholesale, as well as all other words that have begin with the word wholesale. Each search engine will have its own unique characters and operators that can be used to refine (and limit) your searches. These can be invaluable when looking for specific information in a broad category.
2) Step 1 should result in many results. Our search for "+jewelry+wholesale*" (without quotes) in AltaVista www.altavista.com found over 118,000 web pages, and the top 10 results all seemed to be legitimate wholesale suppliers. It's probably a good idea to look at a few sites at this point to see if you are finding the right type of suppliers for your store, and possibly refine your search query if the matches are not close enough to your needs at this point.
3) Refine and focus your searches for fewer, better results. So far, we've looked at broad searches; if you put specific keywords (e.g. the name of a specific type of hair clip), along with keywords such as wholesale* you should start getting very targeted results. Searches like this will start to reveal some key suppliers and websites for your industry.
4) You may find enough information in the major search engines, but if you are having trouble locating potential suppliers, you may also want to look for vertical portals in your industry. The vertical portal that would be a good match with your needs would likely cater specifically to wholesalers, jewelry and fashion. These can be tricky to find, and we've found that one of the best ways to find sites like this is on recommended link pages published by others in the same industry.
To find wholesale portals, we clicked on the Advanced tab on AltaVista to do more refined, boolean searching. Here we tried several combinations:
wholesale* near portal*
fashion* near portal* and wholesale
(using the word near requires that the two words are within 10 words of each other in the found documents)
With these searches - which turned up a few hundred to a few thousand links each rather than a few hundred thousand - we found the following sites:
Polygon.net - the jewelry portal
Cyberconcepts - a wholesale business to business website with a fashion focus
The Wholesale Hub: Wholesale Product Source Listings
Fashion Group International - for professionals in the fashion, apparel, accessories, beauty & home industries.
Womens Wear Daily: Trade newspaper for womenswear industry, soon to be relaunched as a new portal.
InfoMat - serves as a one-stop information source for international apparel, textile & accessories professionals.
After you've done this, you should have a good idea of wholesale sources from online channels.
Assessing business potential
The second part of your question asked whether or not your business would be viable. It would be impossible for us to provide an answer to this question without thoroughly looking at your specific situation. However, we can provide you with a few guidelines to help you get started.
A business plan - whether formal or informal - and, in particular, a financial analysis of your business idea will help you assess the viability of your business.
On the financial end, you will need to identify the start-up and running costs of your business, and the potential revenues for your business, to determine the potential for profit/loss. Just a few of your costs will include: inventory, marketing & advertising, applicable business taxes, rent/lease, electricity, staffing, insurance and phones. A 3-5 year projection is common. If you are having difficulties making these projections yourself, consider looking to a local business support organization, or possibly a trusted banker, to understand what are reasonable revenue projections in your area.
If at first it looks like your business may not be viable, don't abandon the idea entirely. You may be able to find "out of the box" ways to make your business idea work. For example, since it sounds like your business will have significant seasonal fluxuations, rather than locking into a lease where you will be paying for space that only generates significant income for a select number of months during the year, can you instead find another solution? Are there ways that you can extend your business outside of the immediate community, taking advantage of the rural nature of much of Saskatchewan? Rather than following a formula that seems to work well in larger centres, can you customize your store to fill in more than one marketplace gap? Some businesses find it effective to sell products through a catalogue, with items ordered and shipped immediately after a purchase, rather than carrying the inventory - and the associated risk that the product won't sell quickly. You may find it effective to carry a smaller amount of high-demand inventory, while referring customers to an extensive catalogue for additional, unique items. This would enable you to carry more product during the tourist season, while maintaining the store and the most common inventory year round.
These are just a few ideas. Once you've identified exactly where you need to adjust your business idea (if at all), a brainstorming session can produce a number of ideas and solutions to challenges and risks to your business. As you develop the business idea and your business plan, you will have a much clearer idea of whether or not your idea is viable.
-- Julie King
About the author
Julie King is the co-founder and managing editor of CanadaOne, Canada's first small business portal.