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Traditional Wholesale Trading Vs Drop Shipping

Feb 15, 2008
Drop shipping differs from traditional wholesale trading in that it is a form of 'just in time' shipping. Basically, drop shipping means that the online seller will order the product from the wholesaler as and when customer orders are received. The seller simply receives the order and passes on delivery information to the wholesaler for delivery. The customer pays the seller, the seller pays the wholesaler and the seller earns the profit from the difference between the sale price and the cost price. So, the product does not pass through the hands of the seller at any time, and goes directly from the wholesaler to the customer in the drop shipping model.

The traditional wholesale trading method implies that the seller orders a stock of the product from the wholesaler and maintains this stock to service customer demand. The physical possession of the product is the differentiating element. This clearly has a cost associated with it. Firstly, there are storage costs, which can be daunting if the product occupies a large amount of space. Secondly, there will be shipping costs from the wholesaler to the seller. Additionally, there is the cost of carrying unsold stock for a long period of time that eats into profits from sold goods.

So suddenly, drop shipping seems like a great idea. But drop shipping has its drawbacks too. In most cases, especially if you are a small business, you will pay the full MSRP, which will squeeze your profit margins. Additionally, you may have little or no information on the status of your order from the wholesaler, affecting customer service levels. Since you are essentially passing on the cost of carrying inventory on to the wholesaler, you will be charged for it. But, on the upside, you will only need to pay when you receive customer orders.

Reliability is an issue when drop shipping - as a seller, you will be able to control and track your product's delivery much better if you hold inventory. In case of drop shipping orders, the seller relies on the wholesaler's delivery system, which may be surprisingly lax. Finding a reliable wholesaler is a critical task on its own.

If you are worried about the label on the box that is shipped to the customer, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that many wholesalers will include your packing slips and labels when they ship to your customers.

A couple of hybrids exist that are useful to know about: Buying from local wholesalers and hiring fulfillment houses. An alternative to carrying inventory and drop shipping is to buy from nearby wholesalers when you receive an order and ship it out immediately. Amazon started this way, but it works best for small start up businesses. The other option is to make a deal with a fulfillment house. This is an intermediary service that offers to maintain small amounts of inventory, assemble, order fresh stock, pick, pull, pack and ship out your product in accordance with your instructions and using your packing materials. A fulfillment house may provide a shopping cart online and customer call center, depending on the scale of operations. They will charge a fee based on various factors - amount of storage capacity etc, and may charge a small percentage of commission on sales. This model may work best if you are a seller of high margin items.
About the Author
William King is the director of UK Wholesale Suppliers, Wholesale Suppliers and Dropshipping Directory. He has 18 years of experience in the marketing and trading industries and has been helping retailers and startups with their product sourcing, promotion, marketing and supply chain requirements.
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