Setting Up Wholesale Accounts on Shopify

The pros and cons of five methods of selling wholesale on Shopify.

Shopify doesn’t currently offer a wholesale solution as part of their core software. It’s something we hope they are adding, and we are in touch with them about what our clients are looking for. Please contact Shopify yourself with your request for a wholesale solution! If they know how many people want this, they will be more likely to implement it.

While we are able to develop fairly custom wholesale solutions on a per-client basis, we prefer to keep things simple and work with the tools that Shopify provides. The reason is that Shopify is constantly updating and upgrading the shop software. This is a good thing! It does mean that a highly customized site is more likely to become incompatible with future versions of Shopify.

The current state of selling to wholesale accounts on Shopify

Here is Shopify’s official word on how to set up wholesale: Can I offer wholesale?

Let’s go through these options!

1) Set up discount codes

Pros:

  1. This is very simple and easy to do.
  2. Your inventory will be tracked for both retail and wholesale orders.
  3. You can set a minimum order amount OR (not “and) restrict discounts to a customer group OR restrict discounts to certain collections of products.
  4. Shopify recently added a feature that allows you to mark certain customer accounts as being tax-free.
  5. It’s future-proof! Using discount codes for your wholesalers is never going to break your site.
  6. If/when Shopify launches their own wholesale solution, nothing on your site will need to be “un-done” to take advantage of the new features.

Cons:

  1. You can’t control payment terms, or shipping options.
  2. You can’t have different wholesale dollar prices for individual items within a collection.
  3. You can’t set more than one restriction (as in #3, above) on a coupon code.
  4. You can’t prevent people from sharing or accidentally “leaking” the coupon code, unless you restrict by customer group.

2) Order form/custom orders method

Another option is to have an order form for your wholesalers. This could be a contact form on your site where they email you their order, or it could be a PDF order form that they fill out and send to you. When you receive their order, you would create a custom order in Shopify with discounted product prices.

Once you’ve created the custom order, the customer is emailed an invoice. When they click the link in the invoice email they are taken to the shopping cart on your site pre-filled with their order.

The benefit to using this method is that it’s simpler than other methods, it’s easy for the customer to understand, and if Shopify updates how wholesale works in the future it would be easy to switch over.

3) Open a separate wholesale store

This is not quite as crazy as it sounds. If your retail store, for example, is at www.mystore.com, your wholesale store could simply be at wholesale.mystore.com (or anything else you’d like to call the subdomain). Copy your existing shop over to a new one, password-protect it, and then customize it to be the exact shopping experience your wholesale customers want.

Pros:

  1. You can password-protect it, so it’s only accessible to your wholesalers.
  2. You can get all the pricing exactly as you want.
  3. Payment terms (NET-30), tax exemption, and shipping options can be tailored to your wholesalers.
  4. You can include only certain products, and have unique wholesale pricing per product.
  5. You can create a unique wholesale experience, such as a single-page simple order form to add products to the cart.

Cons:

  1. You now have two shops to manage.

You would need an app if you wanted to enforce a minimum order amount, or to code (or hire someone to code) a minimum on the cart page.

One thing that is not a pro or a con is that your inventory would be separate from your retail store. This could be a good thing, as you don’t want to run out of stock for wholesalers, and you may want to order or create more product based on their orders. If you do need inventory to sync between your two shops, it looks like Stitch Labs can manage this.

4) Customize your store to restrict access:

This is usually where we come in! But again, I like to err on the side of caution with all customizations. One of the best things about using Shopify is being able to rely on your site to continue working as expected, and relaxing while Shopify upgrades your store behind the scenes. Any special customizations that must be coded by a developer can interfere with this process.

When we do custom work for clients, our preferred method is to use customer accounts and groups and create separate wholesale and retail products, which are hidden from the wrong customer groups. This means wholesalers will see just their items when they’re logged in, and regular customers will see just retail products.

With this method, shop owners can control the price per unit. It does run into the inventory problem (or feature!) mentioned above.

5) Use an app

There are wholesale apps available in the Shopify app store. If wholesale is not a crucial part of your business, or you don’t mind potential changes in the future, you could give one a try. We don’t like to put important functionality in the hands of an app, because there’s no guarantee that the app will continue working as Shopify changes. There is also no guarantee that the developer will continue to support it.

Interested in giving this a try yourself?

You can sign up for a free Shopify trial here and test things out (that’s our affiliate link).

Let me know if you’d like our help with this! It would be great to be able to offer your clients a smooth purchasing experience on your professional-looking site.

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About the Author

Hello, I'm Arianne! I am the head storyteller, idea hatcher, and yaysayer here at Aeolidia. I started making websites for friends in 1997, and never lost interest in building online homes for fascinating people. I have a great boss (me!) and I'm unafraid to play hooky to head out on an adventure. Some day I'll tell you about the time when, as a marine biology student, I was bitten by a baby elephant seal.

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15 comments
  1. I think #2 with the contact page + pdf order form sounds like smoothest, most professional way to go.

    I’m not on Shopify, but wholesaling is definitely on my goal list in the future.

  2. a big help! looking at all the different options was pretty overwhelming so you have really helped us come to a quick conclusion!

  3. adrienne says,

    Do you have to pay Shopify twice if you duplicate your store? Maybe that is obvious, but I wanted to be sure…. Thanks. Very helpful article.

  4. Hello,

    If I create a separate store for wholesale orders how can I enable payment terms? Is there way to track purchase orders on terms? Where can I find more information as to how to set-up wholesale store in shopify?

    • I would recommend asking in the Shopify forums, Konstantin

  5. Very helpful. Thank you. I currently have a Shopify account and the separate account sounds interesting – would you be able to leverage the same payment gateway? I assume so but wanted to ask.

    • I’d check in with Shopify support about that, John!

  6. Thank you for this article. Ive been struggling to streamine my wholesale process for years. I tried having two separate stores but it was too much maintenance for me. Right now i process all of my wholesale orders simply via email. Im thinking about using the form/wholesale pdf suggestions. But ive always kept my wholesale orders and retail order separate for accounting purposes. Does anyone have experience with having all orders intergarted together? Is it a headache when its time to process sales taxes? Thanks in advance!

  7. I’m trying to set up a store for my company which does not delineate between wholesale or retail. The products we sell are all quantity discounted http://stakeworld.com/Beefy-Stakes.htm is a good example. so you can buy 200 items for .29 each or 1,000 for .24 each. I’m moving from the archaic yahoo store to what I thought was a more up to date elegant solution. This seems like shopping cart basic function. I was shocked to find out you can’t do this on shopify. On yahoo I would just enter a price like 200 .29 1000 .24 5000 .19 and the system would automatically discount the customer accordingly. Is this really not possible on shopify, or am I missing something?

    • I believe this type of functionality is solved in the app store–start by looking at the Quantity Breaks app.

  8. Great post and analysis. I think separate wholesale store is the preferable good way to go, trying to marry retail and wholesale in one part and with multiple plugins is a disaster waiting to happen. Having a separate store simplifies the build more than you would expect. If you can’t justify the costs, keeping it simple and doing it by hand until you have the volume / sales manpower to justify it may be the best way to go.

  9. Thank you for these tips, Arianne! Do you have any recommendations for order forms? I can’t seem to find one that makes it easy to display all of my products on one page, rather than having drop-downs or check boxes. I don’t need to accept payments (I’d rather do that all through Shopify, as your post recommends). When I sold on Etsy and had a self-hosted WordPress blog to accompany it, I used Gravity Forms and it was perfect! Any suggestions?

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