How to Find the Right Wholesaler
Many wholesale jewelry operations are out there. Whether you’re running a small jewelry business, have several locations or an online retail store, it’s important to scrutinize a supplier before moving ahead with an order. In this article, we’ve included a few basic guidelines to help you avoid the potentially costly errors of choosing the wrong wholesaler and the headache that comes with it.
You can’t get carried away by the beauty of a piece of jewelry if it’s price is too high, or get enticed by perks like ‘free shipping’ offered by companies with poor and inconsistent service.
It’s always a combination of necessary traits, priorities and factors that combine together to make for a satisfied customer – and the chance to cultivate a longstanding business relationship. These factors may also change depending on your particular needs as your company grows or as you change your approach to product.
Silver Percentage and Quality
First and foremost, you have to be able to be confident that the product is legit. This is one of the real pitfalls and an area where buyers could potentially be exposed to less than honest wholesalers. If it’s silver you want, it needs to be real! If the wholesaler lies about the quality, you’ll obviously be stuck with an inferior product not worth what you paid and with something you’ll basically be unable to turn over. Random acid tests can help you verify the quality of the product you’re buying.
In the short term, it helps immensely to be able to see a sample first or to spend some time on the phone with a supplier to help figure out out whether they’re legit, which also has to do with core service aspects. If a company is willing to get on video chat and discuss their background and process, it’s a plus. Reviews are also helpful, as well as anything you can glean from looking closely at the product pictures. It also helps to go with your gut on these questions or look for key errors.
For instance, the other day I came across a jewelery retail marketing consultant who had a ‘website building’ package, but meanwhile, his own site was insecure. It was without an SSL certificate. Given this clear oversight, anyone who knows the slightest amount about building a site or SEO would approach these services very skeptically.
One of the ways to at least manage your risk is to start with small quantities and escalate if and only if the supplier can continue to meet your expectations. We plan to publish a future article about how to tell the difference between real and ‘fake’ silver, which we hope will be helpful to those new to the industry.
Design and Accuracy
This is sometimes where the failure to manage expectations on the part of a wholesaler is less the result of intentional deception than overproduction that results in lack of attention to detail. Large manufacturing operations where employees are paid poorly and expected to produce jewelry beyond a reasonable pace are likely to produce a flawed product.
This is partly why, as a wholesaler, just as in any business, it is so important to make sure that the artisans are well taken care of and are able to spend a significant portion of their week working on projects that they care about. The quality and craftsmanship that goes into a piece is also an indication of intentional care.
Also, if you’re working with a factory mass-producer, you may be looking at bland or typical designs. Uniqueness and originality can add a lot to your particular brand. Sometimes, especially for a boutique shop, it can be better to have less overall selection, but that which makes sense together as a collection and presents an aesthetic with enough stylistic consistency that the pieces have a reason to be there together.
As with many topics in this area, the design and accuracy questioned is intertwined with others like internal company culture, which is in turn a mixture of management and local traditions around work. In our case, accuracy is maintained by local expert artisans in our little workshop, which is also Mexican managed. I mostly stick to marketing and let the multi-generational silver experts do their work without much intervention, other than to check up on orders and the occasional QA check.
Consistency of Service
We’ve already touched on service a bit, but there’s a lot to cover here. My first test of a B2B service would evaluate their responsiveness and ability to solve problems / answer questions effectively, congenially and professionally. Have you ever tried to contact a supplier in another country and received a message that was nonsensical, poorly written, in capital letters? Worse yet, have you had someone ask you for a large deposit in advance before you were ready to make an order?
If you’re from the US and your wholesaler deals with US clients, your wholesaler is responsible for communicating clearly to you and for dealing on his or her end with any communication issues that might arise with the local language and culture during the production process when working with local artisans or dealers. This business should, for the most part, be very simple. Things can start to get complicated though when you’re dealing with someone who is wishy washy, has a tendency to evade direct questions or who may not fully understand the logistical process and/or the needs of a client from more of an account management perspective.
Quality of service and the ability of your b2b partners to communicate effectively will in turn impact your ability to consistently restock your inventory and to do so without a massive headache. If you’re ever about to make that call to your wholesaler and find yourself dreading the inevitable frustration, it might be time to look into other options.
Ability to Correct Errors Quickly and Fairly
Just a moment to discuss inventory challenges. As much as we’d like things to be perfect, every company makes the occasional mistake. Ideally, you’d have enough stock in your inventory that a small delivery error wouldn’t leave you high and dry. On the other hand, there is a shelf-cost to static inventory that’ll make you want to keep it at the minimum level required to meet your demand, as, also, there’s an opportunity cost if lack of stock prevents a sale from happening. In a perfect world, you’d have software that could predict demand based on customer behavior with a great degree of accuracy, market trends etc. But it seems that few companies aside from the colossal retailers have managed this.
Then again, if you’re a purchaser or work in logistics, one of the easiest jobs to have could be at a luxury brand that more or less guarantees it will have its respective items in stock all the time. You’re less likely to get a finger wagged at for spending excessive resources on inventory storage in this scenario. Here, the brand has basically made a calculated decision that 100% stocking availability all the time is worth the concomitant higher cost of storage.
Anyhow, irrespective of what your particular logistics process is, it’s abundantly clear that it’s almost always coordinated with exterior supply schedules, so reliable shipping schedules from suppliers are mandatory. We completely cover the cost of shipping for our customers. We maintain a two to five business day shipping window guarantee.
I’m sure there are more factors that could be of help in selecting a wholesaler partner to do business with. We may revisit this topic later, as we continue to learn more about the marketplace. For now, I hope you liked this article!
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Take a look at our sterling silver collection!
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