What to do When Wholesale Prices are Too High

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It's not uncommon for SaleHoo members to find products on eBay that appear to be cheaper than what our approved suppliers sell the items at. 

Have you been conned? Are you missing something? 

No, you're not being conned, but yes, you could be missing some crucial points that will help you understand how wholesale prices and wholesale buying works and how you can get the best prices possible. Here's a quick guide to why sometimes, you can't find wholesale prices lower than eBay prices and what to do about it. 

Why are eBay prices sometimes lower than wholesale prices?

1. eBay has become a wholesale marketplace for many, many products.

A quick search on eBay for "bulk wholesale" reveals that you can purchase pretty much anything in bulk for decent wholesale prices. 

A lot of sellers purchase bulk lots on eBay and split them up to resell them on eBay, their own website, or another marketplace. 

But even when selling single items, you will often find them at extremely low prices that make you wonder why a seller would bother... or how much their wholesaler is selling them for! 

The high volume business model on eBay

eBay is one of the most competitive marketplaces in the world and profit margins are tight. This is why many retailers rely more so on selling high volumes of products, rather than selling a few products with higher margins

Furthermore, many eBay sellers sell 'hero' products or highly sought after products at very low prices as part of a loss-leader model: Lure in buyers by selling low priced commodity goods, then make good margins on everything else they sell. 

For example, I've noticed a few sellers offering laptops for very low prices, then they sell laptop cases or other accessories for good margins. They attract buyers to their cheap laptops, then make their profits on the cases and accessories. 

2. Wholesaler prices ARE lower than eBay prices, but you have to work hard to find them 

For the most part, wholesale prices are lower than eBay sale prices, but sometimes it's easy to think otherwise because when you visit wholesale websites, you only see their light wholesale or retail prices.

In order to see bulk wholesale prices and get rock bottom deals that will earn you big profits, you need to login to the wholesalers website and or email them. 

"One way in which a supplier may share their core products with you is through wholesale list," explains Emma Hamilton, a multi six figure Amazon seller. "A wholesale list is also referred to as a product file, product catalog, and line sheet."

Why do wholesalers make you email them or log in to view prices? 

One reason why wholesale prices aren't always made public is because wholesalers have to protect the interests of retailers selling their products. Have you ever heard Walmart announce how much they make on the items they sell? Of course not. This information is usually well guarded and it's the wholesaler's responsibility to keep it that way. 

Additionally, a lot of wholesalers are, frankly, just a bit behind the times when it comes to their websites and they don't have all their information on their website for you to view: You'll have to call or email to get it. Don't let this put you off though, some of the best wholesalers actually operate this way. 

Wholesaler's old and sometimes neglected websites makes it a little bit hard to find what you want and I'll be the first to admit to closing a wholesalers website because I can't find what I want within 20 seconds. (I know you have done the same!)

In doing so, however, we leave behind what can be a potentially profitable find - terrific wholesale prices from a wholesaler you can form a good relationship with. 

What to do when you can't find the right wholesale prices 

The first thing you should do is look a little harder on your wholesaler's website. As I mentioned above, you generally need to create an account and login to view prices. I know this can be a pain in the butt, but how hard is it really? 

If you're serious about your business, prove it to yourself and make the effort. 

You should also email the supplier and tell them a little bit about your business and plans for the near future. Ask them how much you will need to purchase in order to earn better bulk discounts i.e. if you spend $10k, what discount can they offer? $10k might sound like a scary number now, but a lot of small eBay businesses eventually are able to purchase at this level. 

Knowing what kind if discounts you can get in the future will help you forecast your profits for the future. 

Still can't find the right price? Try this: 

  • Ask our talented customer support staff to take a look for you on our Supplier's Wanted section of our forum. They seem to have super searching powers that help them find more suppliers than the rest of us! 
  • Consider selling somewhere other than eBay. You've probably already considered this because there are some fantastic options to sell stock outside of eBay. I've listed a few of them here. You can also sell on your own website which presents a medley of benefits including being able to sell your items for better prices than you could on eBay. SaleHoo Stores is the easy and affordable way to get your very own storefront up and running. It requires no technical knowledge and costs just $0.90 per day for our Basic Store - that's less than the fees you could pay to sell just one item on eBay!

Last piece of advice

“The key thing about wholesale is you want to source profitable products quickly to get your return on investment back and then rinse and repeat," explains Hamilton. "It’s important to note that not all wholesalers will provide a product catalog. For those suppliers, you will need to go through their website and manually search their catalog which can take hours or even days especially when they have a large portfolio.”


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  • chaim spitzer 28th of March
    Thank you it's good to know more of the process of building my business.
  • Scott Roe 28th of March
    In addition, I have found a lot of items being sold at lower than the manufacturer's MAAP (Minimum Authorized Advertised Price). How do I address this.
  • Ben Wright 29th of March
    The main reason why a lot of prices on ebay is lower than what they can be purchased at wholesale is because, there are now, a lot of China manufacturers on ebay competing with the very resellers they sell wholesale to; and that is what is crippling the businesses of the smaller ebay members, who are not power sellers. this the main reason why I would never try to compete there but have my own site and direct potential buyers to it from social sites, a strategy that is difficult for China sellers to copy due to the language barrier.
  • J Kent McGraw 29th of March
    Just a question, looking for input. I sell USB Flash drives which almost all are either made in China or in Taiwan. I have several suppliers in China and the quality is very good. The problem is that most of the people selling them from China on eBay sell them for just over the wholesale price. I think they save on the shipping that I have to pay to have them sent to me and then make the 5% over eBay fees as their profit. I could sell a lot more if I lowered my prices to just 5% over eBay fees but the time involved in shipping makes me wonder if it is worth it. Is it worth it to make the volume sales and get a discount from eBay for volume and eventually start an eBay store or to do as I am doing which is research the models that are more difficult to find on eBay and sell them for a higher profit?
  • Lace Llanora 29th of March
    Most comprehensive answer by far to this question! Nicely done Alice :) Just to add, wholesalers sometimes make "retailers" work to get their account, reason is they probably want to deal with serious buyers and avoid time wasters. So before getting in touch with a wholesaler, best to prepare relevant information about your business and negotiate for a mutually beneficial arrangement. Remember, the higher the order quantity is - the bigger room for profit becomes. Cheers, Lace
  • duygu ergun 31st of March
    Being brand new, it appears to me that drop shipping through a supplier doesn't have a chance against being able to buy/store mass product from a wholesaler....or have I just not read enough yet?
  • buckeyescoot 31st of March
    This seems like a good blog-post, but I must be respectfully critical and say that it offers nothing substantive. To simply say, "You just aren't looking hard enough to find the wholesalers who will sell items at less per unit, than wholesalers who sell the same items on Ebay", is wrong, in many cases. For many items I have researched, after taking into account shipping and handling charges, the cost per item is the same or MORE than what I see (wholesalers selling) on Ebay. Part of this, from what I have researched, is due to the incredible shipping deals wholesalers get with UPS, as an example. Furthermore, the part about emailing a wholesaler to get the "good" prices, should be routine almost instantly, for anyone that has looked into starting a business. As for selling on other sites? I have listed the same items (I have on Ebay), on Addoway and Bonanza, and not garnered a single sale. It has been almost 20 days (since I started the fixed price auctions) for the four items I have listed. The prices on those sites are also less than what I have them for, on Ebay. I dunno.. this is all fairly discouraging. Competing against wholesalers is very difficult. And I just don't believe that selling "elsewhere" online is going to make much of a difference. I mean really.. tell me where people are going to go to look for an item at the best price? Ebay, or my dinky online store, that is also competing against thousands of other such stores (not to mention giants like Amazon)?
  • J & T 1st of April
    I purchase in bulk from several suppliers and have slowly built up my eBay business. Generally, you cannot purchase onesie-twosie quantities. I have also found that once I have started with a company and built a track record, start buying "master pack" or carton quantities (and these will vary by manufacturer and can be as little as 6 of the same items to over 100), I can generally arrange some kind of discount on either the product or shipping, or both. I also know a couple of my suppliers are concerned with knock-offs that look like their product, are packaged like their product with the same name, etc., but are actually counterfeits. If I suspect this (because their sales price is too close to my wholesale cost), I copy down all of that sellers' information and ask the supplier to look at and see if they legitamately sell to that eBayer. Most of my suppliers are very product protective and have lawyers that will go after the counterfeiters, which is good to know. I strongly believe that this is why several of the sellers I suspected are no longer selling those goods. This would also apply to MAAP pricing. If the supplier has MAAP, they usually enforce it, but sometimes they have to be alerted to the eBayer who is going against the policy pricing. Most of this is not easy and takes research. If you are an eBayer, I strongly suggest Terapeak so that you can do analysis. I have found some good products by doing my homework, and I also have avoided products because I found that there just wasn't the profit margin or potential sales that I wanted. I spend hours on research each week - and it has paid off. Good luck with your businesses!
  • Alice Delore 3rd of April
    Thanks for all the comments and questions everyone :)

    Scott Roe,

    It could be your manufacturer is actually selling the products themselves. This doesn't happen often, as most manufacturers are too busy making products to bother selling them in small quantities on eBay. However, when it does happen, it can be a bit disastrous as you obviously can't compete with them!

    Some suppliers include a clause in their agreement that states that they won't put you at a disadvantage by selling the products themselves. It's worth asking them about this before you start trading with them.

    More likely, the seller is in breech of their agreement with the manufacturer by selling under their MAAP. If I were you, I'd talk to the manufacturer about it.
  • Alice Delore 3rd of April
    Ben Wright,

    You're right about Chinese suppliers selling on eBay. Of course, they don't have the same shipping costs as we do so they can undercut us with ease.

    What makes it even harder is that in China, the cost of living is significantly less than the cost of living in OECD/western countries (where most SaleHoo members live). What this means is that when a China-based supplier sells an item and makes $2, that's a good profit margin.

    If I make $2 off an item, I'd consider it a failed transaction because $2 doesn't buy me much. In China, however, $2 goes a lot further.
  • Alice Delore 3rd of April

    This touches on what I mentioned above in my comment to Ben Wright. It's tough competing with Chinese sellers!

    Should you lower your prices and sell in higher volumes? You need to do some number crunching. Figure out what you want/need to make and how many sales you need to make to achieve it. Then take a look at eBay Completed Listings and see whether there are enough people buying the USB sticks everyday so that you can make up that number of sales.

    In other words, is there a big enough pool of buyers for the volume method to work for you?

    You could also spy on the other sellers offering the same USB sticks - take a look at their feedback and see how many they sell per day. If you sold the same as them, would the numbers work for you?

    The volume method can definitely work but you need optimized systems to make it as profitable as possible. Aim to streamline your listing and shipping processes so that it takes you as little time as possible. This is crucial for the high volume, low margin model.

    Figure out what your hourly rate is when you sell in high volumes: how does it compare to if you were to get a job? Better? Worse? I think this is an important number to crunch. Just divide your profits per sale by the number of hours/minutes spent selling each item.

    One last tip: If you haven't already, cutomize your thumbnail image by adding the words "Trusted Japan* Based Seller. Quality Guaranteed"

    This might help you stand out from other sellers.

    (*from a quick look at your profile, it looks like you are based in Japan, sorry if I'm mistaken)
  • Alice Delore 3rd of April

    You asked about whether you can compete when you drop ship products that other sellers get from wholesalers.
    Good question. You certainly can, but not for hugely popular items that everyone else on eBay sells.

    Some of the best money I've made online was from drop shipping products that others were buying at wholesale. I struck up an amazing deal with my supplier which meant my profits didn't suffer.

    If you want all the benefits of drop shipping, get ready to sell deep niche items that target a specific audience, not a broad one.

    One of the best ways to use drop shipping is to source more items to sell alongside items you bought at wholesale. i.e sell wholesale table cutlery and drop shipped table cloths and coasters (just an example to demonstrate). If you're not ready to buy wholesale yet, use drop shipping as a way to earn some money to save up for a wholesale lot. It might take time, but you will get there.
  • Alice Delore 3rd of April

    Thanks for your comments :)

    It's a sad truth that in some cases, you're right: After adding shipping and handling, you still can't compete. This is usually because your competitors are selling items sourced direct from manufacturers. This means they're getting a better deal than you when you buy from a wholesaler who can offer a smaller wholesale lot.

    That's great that you have tried selling on Addoway and Bonanza - lots of SaleHoo members have reported great sales numbers there. Shame you haven't yet seen the same results. On these sites, it really pays off when you get involved with the community. Chat on the Addoway and Bonanaza community platforms and get to know others. Community is very strong there and although it takes your time investment, it can pay off.

    I hope this helps!
  • Michelle Eden 6th of April
    I want to find a supplier that sells genuine mobile / cell phones so i can make profit like they do on ebay. i have seen some suppliers in here and it only has prices that are like retail not low enough to buy at wholesale.. if you can show me the links to access these companies it would be greatly appreciated
  • Irene Vallejo 8th of April
    Hi @Success I have addressed your supplier search request sent through our support tickets. Kindly check your email. Cheers! :)
  • paul bond 18th of September
    just signed up for salehoo and looked at the prices and they're higher than ebay? Could you help me find suppliers that i could actually make a profit on? I wanted to get into the health and beauty specializing in supplements, workout products, yoga, etc. If you could please help me with this i would greatly appreciate it. I signed up for salehoo just today!
    • Melissa Johnson SaleHoo Admin 19th of September
      Hi, Paul!

      I will forward your request on to support and someone should be in touch.
  • Scott Archer 20th of July
    I'm a bit reluctant with using salehoo, as all the examples I've seen so far, the prices are actually the same if not higher on Salehoo when compared to the same listing on Amazon and/or eBay (especially when you take out Amazon or eBay seller fees, handling, and shipping costs).. I'm not really seeing the profit margin here. Am I missing something? I've looked at 20 items and all 20 were like this.
    • Melissa Johnson SaleHoo Admin 24th of July
      Hi, Scott!

      I'm not sure what pages on our site you are looking at for your data, but many of the members in our directory don't post their wholesale prices publicly, which could be the source of the discrepancy.

      If you're having trouble, I suggest reaching out to our support team! They're always happy to help members with research: https://www.salehoo.com/support

      I hope this helps!