Wholesale trade shows traditionally dominated the industry when it came to independent brands selling to store owners or buyers. These shows were often held in conjunction with Merchandise Marts, where reps would have showrooms for retailers to come and find products. However, these avenues for sourcing products have declined (or even disappeared in some cases) over the past couple of decades.
Replacing these is often done through online wholesale marketplaces such as Alibaba. Many of the companies selling on Amazon, as well as their own online stores, purchase products made in China by finding suppliers through these online marketplaces.
The supply chain crisis has forced retailers to look for alternatives. Fortunately, China is not the only place where you can source products. This article lists a variety of marketplaces from around the world, including right here in the United States, to find companies who can manufacture custom products or provide white label and private label products that you can sell in your online store.
I was recently asked at the end of a public presentation what an online retailer should do about the supply chain issues of products coming from China. Since my presentation had been renamed by the show management as “Obstacles Facing Ecommerce Companies Today,” the question was completely understandable. I gave her an answer that I think didn’t really satisfy her, so I came back and have done some research.
The pandemic created an unprecedented demand for goods like electronics, furniture, gym equipment, and more put a serious amount of stress on an already strained global supply chain. According to Shopify, “this has placed tremendous pressure on suppliers and port workers across the globe, specifically in China, which was already hampered by pandemic restrictions, including factory shutdowns and understaffed ports. As the demand for goods increased, so did the need for shipping capacity. With 90% of the world’s goods transported by ship and understaffed ports more congested than ever, the availability of empty shipping containers dwindled. Driven by a backlog of idling ships waiting to dock and unload, and significantly longer turnaround times back to Asia to reload new cargo, an unprecedented supply squeeze ensued.”
According to Wired.com, the supply chain crisis has gotten worse because of the war in Ukraine. Most experts suggest that We’ll see global supply chains become somewhat predictable again near end of 2023/early 2024. This is obviously a real challenge for many ecommerce companies, not just consumers, and you likely can’t wait that long for your business to normalize. You need some options.
As of July 1, 2022, the average shipping container price quadrupled due to COVID-induced shipping container shortages.
Not only has this increase in shipping costs eaten heavily into retailer margins, but it has also led to significant inventory delays. Retailers are now faced with a tough decision: Do we pay even more for airing products or do we accept the shipping delays and wait weeks to months to receive our inventory? And, it has led many to look for alternatives to sourcing product from China, such as the young lady in the audience I was addressing.
When I answered her, I indicated that you should buy enough product for your online store to last through the holidays and that you should order these items early. But the bigger issue is, can I get products manufactured anywhere other than China and placing my orders on Alibaba?
Alibaba has for years been regarded as the standard for getting suppliers in China. And for good reason – thousands of manufacturers sell tons of products through the Alibaba website. It is designed specifically for B2B (wholesale) transactions. There is now a US version of Alibaba as well – specifically for American suppliers.
The Alibaba Group, headquartered in Hangzhou, China, also owns AliExpress.com, a site designed for B2C or retail transactions. AliExpress was created to serve individual customers. However, many small businesses—especially dropshippers—use AliExpress, too. Both Alibaba and AliExpress offer integrations with both WooCommerce and Shopify.
A good alternative to Alibaba is DHGate.com. This site is also located in China but offers some different products and manufacturers, so you might be able to differentiate yourself from everyone else who is sourcing products from Alibaba and selling on Amazon.
Of course, the problem is that these sites contain primarily Chinese suppliers. When facing supply chain issues, it would be helpful to find suppliers in other countries. Surely there are wholesale marketplaces outside of China!
The Evolution of Wholesale Marketplaces
For decades, in-person wholesale trade shows traditionally dominated the industry when it came to independent brands selling to store owners or buyers. These trade shows cost between $5K-$20K to attend and show at — but for a long time (and before COVID), they often yielded a large number of sales. Reps (people who represent your line to stores in exchange for a commission) were another option and they rented showrooms at merchandise marts where you could place your orders.
Both of these avenues have become less reliable. Merchandise Marts that once hosted these shows have closed (some are still open, but their impact is not what it once was). Now, wholesale marketplaces have started popping up online, making it so you no longer have to travel to find products to source for your store. And China is not the only option.
Here then are some alternatives to Alibaba and China.
GlobalSources – GlobalSources is probably Alibaba’s biggest competitor. The platform is entirely in English (and also available in Spanish). You can find manufacturers from all over the world, but the company is located in China, so most suppliers are still from Asia including Vietnam, India, and South Korea.
ThomasNet – ThomasNet has been in business for over 120 years, serving as North America’s number one industrial sourcing platform. The website lists both manufacturers (suppliers) and retailers (buyers).
Faire – Faire is a wholesale marketplace connecting independent brands (many of them handmade lines) to independent boutiques.
IndiaMART – IndiaMART is one of the largest B2B marketplaces in India. If you are looking for an overseas supplier but want an alternative to China, this may be a good place to investigate.
eWorldTrade – Located in Dallas, TX, eWorldTrade connects buyers and sellers primarily in the electronics devices industry. As such, many of the suppliers are from Asia, including China.
eSources – eSources is based in the United Kingdom and is the UK’s largest wholesale directory of UK wholesale distributors, suppliers and products.
Zentrada – Zentrada claims to be Europe’s largest platform for wholesale purchasing of volume and consumer goods & brands.
SoloStocks – SoloStocks is a Spanish language website. It is the leading online sales portal for businesses in Spain and has a strong international presence, especially in Latin America.
FashionTIY – FashionTIY is an online wholesale market that is headquartered in the US, but located in China. It is known for its wide range of affordable clothing. United States alternatives include WholesaleFashionSquare.com and LAShowRoom.com.
Exporta – Exporta is a one-stop solution to buy from apparel factories in Latin America.
Additionally, you may want to consider dropshipping directories. Dropshipping is an order fulfillment method where a business doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, the seller purchases inventory as needed from a third party—usually a wholesaler or manufacturer—to fulfill orders.
Worldwide Brands, established in 1999, is one of the oldest and best-known supplier directories. Worldwide Brands serves retailers around the world. The company is a supplier directory, so shipping costs and locations depend on the dropshipping wholesale supplier you find through the platform. There are over 16 million certified wholesale products to choose from in niches like pet supplies, jewelry and watches, consumer electronics, home décor, apparel, and more.
Wholesale Central is another dropshipping company to take a look at. Wholesale Central lists over 1,400 US-based vendors on the wholesale dropshippers list, with more than 700,000 products.
Besides those listed, there are actually a number of both online sourcing marketplaces and dropshipping companies. I only presented a handful to give you an idea of where to get started. In many ways, these websites offer an online version of a trade mart, but with a much broader base of products.AS such, if you are a wholesaler or manufacturer and you are not listing your products one one or more of these sites, you are missing out on an opportunity for both etailers and physical retailers to find you.
It is possible to easily source products for your online store from anywhere in the world. While China offers a large and inexpensive way to get your products manufactured, they are not the only country with manufacturing capabilities. To maintain a competitive edge, it is worth looking at alternatives.
Let me know where you get your products produced. Or, if you are the manufacturer, what marketplaces do you use to get discovered?
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