Supplier Showdown: Drop Shippers vs. Wholesalers

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Ever wondered which supplier type is best for you and your business? If you are tossing up between a dropshipper and a wholesaler, let this quick guide to the in’s and out’s of dropshippers and wholesalers put your mind at ease!


What is a wholesaler? Wholesalers are suppliers who connect retailers with products. They buy in bulk from manufacturers and redistribute them.

The best thing about wholesalers: Their wholesale prices mean you earn big profits

When you deal with a wholesaler, you can expect to get some great prices on wholesale bulk lots. Also, the more you buy from them, the better the discounts.

Other benefits:

A great range of the latest products

Wholesale suppliers love keeping up with trends just as much as retailers do. That means you can be first to get some of the latest items from the top manufacturers. Good wholesalers regularly attend trade shows and talk with manufacturers in order to keep on top of the latest consumer trends.

They are reliable

Once you build a strong relationship with a wholesaler, they can provide you with a long term and reliable supply of items.

They are happy to work with smaller businesses

Many wholesalers understand eBay businesses. They understand that you might not have a big budget to start with, and are willing to help you work with you in your early days so that you can grow to become one of their larger clients in time.

Watch out for: Minimum order quantities

Also known as MOQ’s. MOQs represent the minimum order that individual wholesalers set to determine how much a retailer must buy from them in one single order.

Some minimum orders are set on a per unit basis, i.e., the wholesaler requires that you buy 100 units for example. Other wholesalers might ask you to spend a certain amount of money per order.

MOQs are necessary for wholesalers as they rely on a high volume of sales in order for their business to be profitable. For example, a wholesaler who is distributing paint brushes might only make $0.90c on each sale. Therefore to make it worth their while, they need to sell say, 200 units per order to cover their time spent setting up a new account with you and packaging your order, while still making a profit!


What is a dropshipper? A dropshipper is a supplier who works with retailers by stocking, packing and shipping the items directly to the customers on behalf of the retailer.

The best thing about dropshippers: Their unique approach to product distribution virtually eliminates the #1 hurdle faced by retailers: having enough start-up capital. Also, by allowing you to pay for only the items you sell, their distribution model also helps to remove the issue of cash flow which can cripple many retailers.

Other benefits:

Less packing, more selling

When you dropship items, they go directly from your supplier to your buyer. Your supplier takes care of the packaging for you, freeing up more of your time to focus on making more sales.

You can offer buyers a wider product range

Because you are not having to invest in inventory, you can create a one-stop shop for your niche market. For example, if you are selling tableware, you can expand into vases and coasters without costing you a thing.

Risk free risk-taking

If you have a unique idea for a product that could well be the next hot seller on eBay, but you’re not quite sure if you should go investing in a large wholesale lot, drop shipping is a fantastic solution; you can list the items for sale and do some real-time market research, risk free!

Watch out for: Tighter profit margins

The major down side of using a drop shipper is that they add around US$2-$5 to the cost of each item you sell. This is to cover the cost of the time it takes for them to liaise with you, process your payment, and package and ship the item to your buyer.

This means that your profit margins will be a little tighter than if you were using a wholesaler. To overcome this problem, try selling deep niche items, rather than hot sellers which are very competitive.

Watch out for: Back orders

Ah, back orders. The bain of any dropshipper’s existence.

A back order occurs when you list an item for sale on eBay or wherever you are selling, but your supplier has sold out of the item. This can cause long delays in your buyers getting their item, and sometimes it means you will end up with negative feedback being placed on your account.

Talk to your supplier about what measures they have in place to help prevent back orders occurring.

Quick Recap:

Use a wholesaler if you:

• Have money to invest

• Are ready to build a solid and long term relationship with a supplier

• Don’t mind storing, packing and shipping your own items

Use a dropshipper if you:

• Want to test out new markets or expand your product range

• Have a niche item in mind; You are unlikely to succeed in selling competitive items due to the drop shipping surcharges you will incur

Got a question about wholesalers or dropshippers? Fire away in the comments below.


About the author
George Drennan

George is a writer specializing in eCommerce and marketing. With his expert knowledge, he has created lots of content for SaleHoo, and has over 10 years of hands-on experience working on campaigns and strategy for leading brands. With a data-driven approach, he empowers companies to stand out, drive targeted web traffic, and generate sales.

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  • Arthur 15th of November
    Great information. I have never used dropshippers because I'm scared they'll take forever to arrive in the U.S. I definitely prefer wholesalers in this case.
  • Ignatius Aris 15th of November
    Great post! I have just started my business as wholesaler of china products. This post is a basic knowledge we should know before we start these two kind of business. I combine wholesale and drop ship on my business. I give opportunity to my buyers to make a choice. I offer lower price for drop shipped products. It's a wonderful combination.
  • Rhoda Ying 17th of November
    "Once you build a strong relationship with a wholesaler, they can provide you with a long term and reliable supply of items" This is a good suggestion for Drop Shippers become wholesaler
  • Rhoda Ying 17th of November
    I Share this on my facebook
  • paul Cost 17th of November
    Hi, Have been using a mix of both methods for years now, ie best sellers buy in stock, slower selling items drop ship. Though the trap with drop shipping can be as mentioned a buyer makes a purchase and you discover its out of stock with your supplier, hence unhappy customer as you cannot supply the item they purchased. So found a good method to turn a possible negative situation into a positive, That is apologize to the customer that you did not know the warehouse was out of stock of item blah blah and then offer them another similar slightly more expensive but in stock for the same price, of course they will be happy to get a more expensive product for the same price as they paid for a lesser product. End result happy customer and if selling on Ebay a positive feedback
  • Michael 18th of November
    Very good post! I always use dropshipper in my items as I'm part-time seller. Dropshipper handle all posting and packing job that I can focus on searching any niche products as well as expanding product range under dropshipper product list. Of course I need to pay more but I still have profit and no risk on keeping stock. Understand that price of wholesales much cheaper and I will consider this once I'm become full time seller.
  • Alice Delore 18th of November
    Thanks everyone. I'm glad this post was useful to you all :)

    ausbargainbasement, yeah it's a bit of a nightmare when that happens and I've had my fair share of stressful times worrying about whether I will get negative feedback. If you can, buy a couple of your most popular drop shipped items and keep them on hand in case back orders occur. I've found this a huge help in the past.

    Micheal, good plan to start using wholesalers when you can. It's a good idea to put some of your profits from drop shipping aside and save up to buy a wholesale lot when you can.

    I think it's still worth drop shipping even when you are selling wholesale purchased items though. It gives you the chance to test out new products and also offer a wide product range.

    I hope this helps :)
  • Allenlavoiee 3rd of July
    I am a wholesale dealer but i have never heard about drop shipper .It really helps in keeping stock ? what are its advantages?
  • Irene Vallejo 3rd of July
    Hi @Allenlavoiee Please see Cheers!
  • Colby Howell 25th of May
    As a dropshipper that is looking for a supplier that can manage and deliver the products we need on our online retail store, how do we find suppliers that do not require MOQ or even negotiate without any upfront capital to drive wholesale pricing down in order to achieve a larger spread on profit?