Whether You Need a Wholesale Website (And How to Do it Right)

How to set up a wholesale website to get started taking wholesale orders online.

This is a post we wrote in collaboration with Emily from Wholesale In a Box. More info on them below.

When makers are at the earlier stages of their wholesale journey, the structural issues can feel overwhelming. The makers we work with get stuck on anything from wholesale minimums to how to package their line for wholesale. Products and production? They’re all over it. But these more logistical and operational elements can be challenging to wrangle.

The question of whether a maker needs a wholesale online shop is one of these challenging items. While it’s probably not make-or-break for your business, setting up your wholesale ordering system can be a way to remove obstacles to growth. By making it simple, streamlined, and on-brand for store owners to place an order with you, a lot of obstacles are removed.

Ultimately, most makers will end up with a wholesale shop as part of their website. But the timing of whether and when to prioritize that is important. So in this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of wholesale websites… and how to decide if and when you need one.

What is a wholesale website?

A wholesale website is usually a separate online store on (or connected to) your website that allows retailers to look at, and purchase, wholesale products. It may be close to a “clone” of your retail shop (but with wholesale pricing and quantities), or it might work quite differently. People structure their wholesale sites in different ways, depending on their needs and goals.

Pros and cons of a wholesale website

When done right (more on that below), a wholesale site can be better than the alternatives in multiple ways. It can be a simple ordering process for store owners. It allows you to update and change products, descriptions, and pricing much more easily than with a document like a line sheet. And, it’s often simpler to keep branding consistent across your retail website, wholesale website, and other online pieces of your presence.

That said, wholesale sites do have some disadvantages. It can be costly (in time or money) to build a wholesale website, especially in a way that is on-brand for you. Also, some makers can veer into a territory that feels generic if they don’t find a way to weave their story into the website.

You should consider creating a wholesale website if:

  • You don’t have a great way of taking wholesale orders currently.
  • You’re reaching out to independent boutiques as a key piece of your wholesale growth.
  • Creating and updating a line sheet has been time consuming for you.

You probably don’t need a wholesale website if:

  • You’re focused entirely on trade shows for your growth.
  • You’ve recently invested a lot in a great line sheet.
  • All the wholesale growth you could want is coming through a platform like Etsy Wholesale.
  • You have a simple way to take wholesale orders that is working for you.

Considering creating a wholesale shop?

Here’s what Emily from Wholesale In a Box says is crucial:

  • Don’t make the store owner log in to see your wholesale products. It can be wise to have a login, but not if the only way for a store owner to see your wholesale offering is by creating an account/login.
  • Consider “out of the box” options. While a separate wholesale site can be great, another option is to have store owners shop on your regular website but with a coupon code that gives them the wholesale price.
  • Make sure your wholesale checkout process is easy. Go through it yourself (all the way through purchase) and take notes on where it seems slow, confusing, or frustrating.)
  • Make your “about” page visible or accessible from the wholesale shop. Shop owners often only visit one page, so make sure that they can easily learn about you and your products.

And here’s what Aeolidia recommends for getting your wholesale website’s design and branding right:

  • Create a slightly different version of your logo or header graphics for the wholesale site so that it is easy for customers to tell which website they are on. This could be as simple as the addition of a “wholesale shop” tagline.
  • Decide what is most important for wholesale customers to know about your business and adjust your content to match. This may mean making changes to your home page, adding informational pages specifically for wholesale customers, etc.
  • Add a wholesale contact form to your retail website so that potential wholesale customers can contact you, and you can gather the information you want from them in order to decide if they are a good fit for your business.
  • When you set up your wholesale website, go through the process of becoming a wholesale customer yourself so you can see exactly how it works. Write up clear instructions for your wholesale customers as you go through the process.
  • Your wholesale store allows for more specific wholesale policies—things like your payment and shipping options. Make sure you update your policies, terms and conditions on the wholesale website.

Here’s our information on the different ways to set up wholesale ordering on Shopify.

You certainly don’t need to rush it, but starting to plan for your wholesale shop can be a smart investment in your wholesale growth. If it’s not the right time for your business, that’s absolutely fine—but these are dynamics that you can keep in mind so you’re laying the groundwork early.

We collaborated on this post with Emily from Wholesale In a Box, a subscription service that helps handmade businesses grow wholesale. Until May 11th, you can sign up for their free 5-day program to give your wholesale a boost. Find out more at wholesaleinabox.com/5tinystepschallenge

  1. Great points and appreciate the link to the shopify info. Thanks so much!

    • Certainly, I’m glad this was helpful, Jessica!

  2. I’m in the depths of hell trying to get the wholesale side of my business running smoothly. I import a line of high-end Dutch paint to the US and I thought that was the hard part! I’ve been using Wholesale Hero and though it’s considered one of the best wholesale apps it’s got some issues, and I totally understand that nothing will ever be perfect but now I have my wholesale customers emailing in their orders and that’s a pain (and costing me and them money) as the paint line is six different kinds of paint in over 150 colors and lots of related products. I’m discouraged and wish there was a place for me to get solid answers. This is a new business and I don’t have a million $ budget to get this right. I’ve had one Shopify expert that originally set it up and now I have another who told me it wasn’t set up correctly the 1st time :( Shopify is fantastic and so intuitive for retail, wholesale is another story and I just feel like there’s not a lot of attention put there because there are not a lot of wholesale businesses using it… Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!

    • Same with me I tried wholesaler pro I paid them over $1500 and nothing ever worked, retail customers could see everything, after months of trying to resolve it I gave up and our customers started emailing too. A waste of time and money unfortunately. Two years on I’m about to start again and make a completely different site to our retail one.

  3. Thank you for your input. I have some of the same experience as Jayne. I have tried to set up a wholesale site on Big Commerce for the last 2 days. I signed up for bottom level and told that I would need to upgrade and after I got the site built found out that the products on the front page show prices and anyone would be able to purchase.
    I have built my sit on Homestead.com and plan to take order by phone until I find something better.

  4. Pingback: New Wholesale Platforms Rise in the Wake of Etsy Wholesale - Craft Industry Alliance

  5. Kate says,

    My family and I have a wholesale business that has been around since 1948. We are trying to transition to online. We do not sell to the general public, we are strictly wholesale to maintain loyalty to our customers. How can we create an online store that is wholesale only?

    I am welcoming any and all suggestions!

    Thank you :)

    • Hi Kate,

      You probably want to be clear on the site who it is for, have a registration form, and password protect the whole site so only your wholesale customers may order from it. Best wishes!

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