And using wholesalers doesn’t always make sense, especially for small brands. Handing over large amounts of product to a wholesaler means that brands don’t have total control over which retailers they end up in, or over the retail experience around the product. Trade shows are a popular way for brands to reach like-minded retailers to stock their products, but they can be expensive to attend and limit a brand’s exposure to one country at a time.

Biting back

But wholesale isn’t going anywhere just yet. A bunch of new wholesale marketplaces have popped up for brands and retailers around the world to interact with one another digitally. On all of these platforms, both brands and retailers have to apply, and essentially be vetted before they can list or buy items. Think of them like business-to-business versions of direct-to-consumer marketplaces.

Unlike wholesalers, these platforms don’t hold any stock themselves, relying on brands to fulfil any retail orders directly. They act more like intermediaries, making it easier for brands and retailers to find partners that they’re happy with – and taking a cut for it. 

There’s a massive market for these new-age wholesalers. With offices around the world, JOOR has facilitated more than $50 billion in wholesale transactions to date, and recently announced its expansion into China. Just last month, Dutch Orderchamp and French Ankorstore both announced pretty hefty startup funding rounds. And to convince brands and retailers to stick with wholesale rather than going directly to one another, these marketplaces are also offering additional perks.

• Multi-brand orders. Retailers can save money on shipping costs – and time on various supplier contracts – by ordering stock from multiple brands at the same time. 

• Taking on risk. Ankorstore pays brands once an order is delivered, while also allowing retailers to access flexible payment plans. UK-based Creoate even lets retailers return any inventory from new brands that they haven’t been able to shift. 

• Learning your brand. Using machine learning, North-American Faire learns a retailer’s preferences and feeds it products from similar brands. That’s even more incentive for brands to make a good impression on these platforms – factors like timing of order fulfilment, cancellations and response time all feed into a brand’s ranking on Faire.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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