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Fashion rules: How to buy wholesale clothing

November 17, 2023 | Published by Faire

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a long rack of clothing on hangers in a retail store. The space is white and has whimsical art.

Whether you want to open an airy shop that sells earthy, natural looks, launch a fashion-forward online store with edgy designs, or run a series of pop-ups with adorable baby clothes, you will need to know how to buy wholesale clothing. This article will guide you through everything you need to start, gain momentum, and secure the best deals possible. 

Regardless of what types of items you want to sell, you will need a resale certificate. This is also known as a seller’s permit or (in Canada) a sales tax license. Having that documentation will allow you to purchase items from wholesale vendors and resell these products to your customers at a profit. 

While this permit process is consistent across industries, in the fashion world there are certain things you’ll want to keep in mind. Unlike candles or stationery, you’ll need to determine the size range you want to offer customers. You’ll also need to be mindful of the time of year—customers are much more likely to be shopping for ski apparel or heavy boots as winter approaches. Finally, women’s apparel in particular requires buyers to keep one step ahead of trends

How much does wholesale clothing cost? 

Asking “How much does wholesale clothing cost” is a bit like asking “How long is a piece of string?” There are endless possible answers and variables to consider. 

The type of clothing matters. Generic items are going to be more budget-friendly than designer labels, and high-quality fabrics will come with a price tag to match. The way the clothing is manufactured also comes into play. For example, eco-friendly women’s apparel can cost more than items without that designation—but your customers might be willing to pay more for values-aligned brands

To maximize profit, consider shopping locally to save money on shipping and import fees. And while you want to make sure your current stock is seasonally appropriate, buying items in the offseason can result in some great bargains. Think buying a bunch of palazzo pants in the dead of winter, or stocking up on wide-leg pants when everyone is still in shorts. 

Finally, sometimes the more of an item you buy, the cheaper the per-unit price is. 

How much should I mark up the price for retail? 

When you are planning and budgeting for inventory, you want to make sure you cover your expenses—all your expenses, like the initial wholesale price, shipping, and any handling fees. Then, factor in your operating expenses like rent, staff wages, and marketing. 

Once you have a handle on those, think about what kind of profit margin you want. This depends heavily on your business strategy and your market. Some businesses go for a lower markup to attract more customers, while others might aim for a higher margin with a premium brand. For instance, a luxury “it” bag might be marked up 10 times its wholesale price, but most middle-range boutiques have about a 30- 50% markup.

Also, formal or specialty clothing can be marked up more than casual pieces. We all know that customers are likely to spend more on a flower-girl dress than a crewneck sweatshirt (even an embroidered crewneck!). 

Can I use my own label? 

Private labeling, often called white labeling, is a popular method for adding one’s own label to wholesale apparel. With private labeling, you can give your apparel a distinct look and feel by adding your own logo, tags, and labels.

You will have to find a factory or distributor that can make and sell your clothes under your label. Be sure to check with your vendor to confirm if this is an option before you place an order.

You might need to supply the manufacturer with the labels, tags, or other identifying markings you want to use, like woven labels, hanging tags, care instructions, and so on. Some manufacturers might be able to create these items for you if you give them the relevant information. 

Minimum order quantities (MOQs) may apply to private labeling, so be sure to ask your supplier about this before placing an order. You should also confirm whether or not private labeling services incur any additional expenses.

Where can I find clothing vendors?

Many retailers use an online wholesale platform like Faire to quickly and easily find clothing wholesalers. Faire boasts over 100,000 wholesale brands, and you can sort using buyer reviews and search by shopping category, price, and geography. You can even filter for brands with no minimum purchase, brands not on Amazon, or brands who give back to their community

If you miss the curated bustle of a trade show event, Faire Markets can help you meet that need without taking valuable time away from your day-to-day business. 

Are you a new retailer? Read more about Open with Faire and learn how to apply for up to $20,000, with 60-day payment terms, to stock your new shop.

New to Faire? Sign up to shop, or apply to sell.

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