Finding UK Suppliers

A simple question, surely? You just Google search for 'Wholesalers UK' and away you go, right? 

Stop right there! 

If it's that simple, then any person and their dog could set up a successful online or high street retail business in the UK. It's actually a little more tricky than a quick Google and there's some mighty important steps to follow, before your journey to business success!

IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL

First of all, you need some idea of your target market, your competitors, your strengths and weaknesses (see SWOT analysis).

For example. You've come up with the idea that you want to sell stationery online. Simple right? Some pens, a few different types of notepads etc. But actually, the stationery theme comes with a whole host of different avenues and with some simple planning, you can develop a strategy that makes your business stand out. 

By creating a customer persona, you can understand how your potential customers shop, their average basket size, the style of products they want and the types of shops they already frequent. 

Take our customer persona for someone called 'Tom'. He's 35, a Marketing Executive who commutes 2 hours to work every day. He attends lots of high profile meetings and has a reasonably high disposable income. Being busy, with a high disposable income, means that 'Tom' is likely to be more interested in purchasing good quality stationery that lasts. Something that looks good in meetings but can also be versatile and used on the train while commuting. Perhaps you can provide 'Tom' with the complete stationery bundle for the travelling exec? A unique laptop case, that carries essentials and charging blocks? Or a notepad that has an integrated pen? Or a pen that comes with a case that links to the laptop bag he already uses, so it never gets lost? 

See, you're now creating a USP (Unique Selling Point) and if Tom is impressed with your unique stationery bundle, he's likely to mention this to others in the same industry. 

COMMUNICATE

If you're successful, then your suppliers are going to be one of the key ingredients to ongoing success or complete disaster.

When thinking of your customer personas, marketing plans and USPs, it can be useful to open dialogue with suppliers and be a friendly point of contact for them. 

Your suppliers are likely to have sales staff and these staff need to sell products. The more they sell, the more your supplier grows and by opening up the conversation, you can quickly find yourself being offered completely unique products that others won't get a chance to buy, until their on the suppliers website and already in their catalogues. 

In the modern world, picking up the phone can seem daunting. Most people prefer Live Chat or Email but this becomes blunt and to the point, with no option of discussing other avenues or chatting about your own targets. This is the price, end of story.

Over the phone though, you can quickly build rapport and get the creative juices flowing. If you're planning is done well, your supplier will see your business as an account that's likely to grow and they'll be happy to maybe include some free sample products or invite you to their stand at one of the big shows. You may even be able to get more favourable credit terms than someone who just signs up using an online web form.

BE SELECTIVE

It's very tempting to select the first 3 or 4 wholesalers or dropshippers, sign-up with a FREE wholesale account, download their latest full product CSV and upload this straight to your website. A few hours of work and you'll have thousands of products on your website in no time.

However, if you're only taking a couple of hours to build your entire website and you're not taking weeks or months to painstakingly put something unique together, then you're likely to fail. 

Products need unique descriptions, something that sells them whenever someone visits your website or clicks on an ad. It's likely that your suppliers will use stock product descriptions, their simple, quick to upload but they lack the detail and personal touch that today's shoppers are seeking. 

Try to build a theme, a story, a style for your website and then search for products that tick the boxes. With the planning you've done above, you should have a pretty good idea of your target demographic, a USP, the price points, the margins...use all of this.

JOIN IN THE CONVERSATION

Two heads are better than one and the same is true of planning for a new business. If you're not surrounded by business experts in your own life, then sign up to some online forums and join in the discussion. Learn about the experiences of other business owners and try to get a flavour of your market and sector, with the help of others, who have already done the research or had first hand experience.

Remember to share your new found wisdom with others.