how to start business buying wholesale guide

How to Start a Clothing Business with Buying Wholesale – The Ultimate Guide

Whether you are thinking about opening up a brick-and-mortar store, an eCommerce site or even an Amazon storefront, building a clothing business could be a perfect way to supplement your income or ditch your current 9-to-5 job once and for all. Clothing is, of course, something people always need, and while there is a lot of competition, there is always room for newcomers. 

Regardless of what industry you are in, one of the most important elements of success is knowing how to buy low and sell high. If you are thinking about launching your own retail clothing business, you need to familiarize yourself with how to get the best possible prices on your merchandise to ensure there is plenty of room for profit. Buying wholesale clothing is your best bet, and while the process might seem complex at first, it’s actually quite simple. Keep reading to learn how to start a clothing business with buying wholesale! 

First Things First: Handle the Legal Issues

There are legal issues that need to be addressed prior to launching any type of business. It would be great if we could simply set up shop, start selling merchandise and keep all of the profits, but, unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple. First, you need to make sure it’s legal to do business in your area. This is especially important if you are thinking about launching an online business from home. This may be illegal in some instances due to zoning laws. 

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You’ll also need to secure all of the proper licenses and permits. You might need a building permit, for example, if you’re building or remodeling a storefront. You may also need city and state business licenses. If you aren’t sure what the legal requirements are, the Small Business Administration is an excellent source of information. 

Now is also the time to legally register your business and obtain a tax ID number. This ensures you have what you need in order to pay taxes. Having a tax ID number is also required when ordering from some–but not all–wholesalers. 


How to Start a Clothing Business


Find a Niche

As previously mentioned, you’ll face a lot of competition if you decide to start your own clothing business. The best way to set yourself apart from your competitors is to find a niche. After all, if you are trying to sell the exact same things as someone else who already has an established business, consumers have very little reason to buy from you instead. 

Think about your target market and the types of clothing you would like to sell. Are you going to cater to men? Women? Kids? Would you like to serve the teen or tween market? Or maybe you’d like to sell to senior citizens. 

group of friends dancing silly

The more unique your niche, the better chance you’ll have at being successful. If you are opening a physical store, pay close attention to the clothing stores in your area and determine what’s missing. If there are several shops that cater to women and kids, starting a men’s clothing store may be your best bet. Even if you are selling online, you can still find under-served markets to target. Representation is huge and if you can build a clothing brand that targets people who are less frequently represented in the media, advertisements or even on fashion runways, you’ll likely achieve a high level of success. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the feeling that comes from launching a business that supports marginalized individuals. 

Remember, though, your niche needs to be something you are passionate about. If you are not someone who particularly enjoys spending time around young kids, for example, launching a local clothing boutique for children probably isn’t your best bet. 

Something else to consider is whether you plan on selling customized clothing. If you are looking for a way to express your creativity while earning a living, selling customized apparel could be an excellent option. The future of screen printing technology looks bright, and it’s definitely something worth getting into if you would like to sell customized apparel. 

printing press t shirt

Of course, you don’t have to customize the apparel you sell. You can purchase wholesale t-shirts or other garments and resell them at a higher price without doing anything to customize them. Customization does, however, allow you to charge a higher price and may broaden your appeal. 

Start Searching for Wholesalers

By now, you should have a solid idea of your target market, which will guide you when making buying decisions. With this information in hand, it’s time to start looking for wholesalers. Working with wholesale suppliers can seem a bit intimidating when you are first getting started. There is a lot of information to process, and as a brand-new small business owner, you may feel out of place among other buyers who have more knowledge and experience. 

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In the retail world, relationships are key. For this reason, you will want to dedicate plenty of time to not only finding wholesalers, but also building meaningful relationships with them. The more you invest in your relationship, the more the wholesaler will be willing to work with you to make your business dreams come true. Even if you aren’t their largest buyer, they will enjoy working with you if you are kind, consistent and, of course, pay your bills on time. 

Finding Wholesalers

Thanks to the Internet, finding wholesalers is much easier now than it was 20 or so years ago. A simple online search yields thousands of results. If you are planning on selling wardrobe staples, like wholesale hoodies and t-shirts, ShirtMax is, of course, an excellent place to start. We do not require our buyers to provide any sort of business documentation, and we strive to ensure our ordering process is as straightforward as possible. 

When searching for additional wholesalers, you can either look for suppliers that represent several clothing brands or seek out wholesale opportunities for specific brands. If you would like to sell a particular clothing brand, the best option is to visit their website and look for links to wholesale information. These can usually be found at the bottom or top of the page. Don’t be discouraged if you are not able to find much information. You may need to contact the company directly in order to find out what you need to know. 

Contact Wholesale Suppliers

Contacting the supplier directly may not be necessary if you choose one that doesn’t have special requirements for buyers. In those instances, you can just create an account and place an order. 

In instances where you do need to contact the wholesaler, there are a few things you can do to ensure everything goes smoothly. Before making a phone call or sending an email, spend some time reading through the website to make sure you actually need to contact the company directly. Many businesses allow you to apply for a wholesale account directly on their website. If this is the case, simply follow the instructions and provide the requested information. 

woman on business call taking notes

If you need to contact a representative via phone or email, you will likely be required to provide some sort of proof you are operating a real business. Wholesalers often require copies of your business license and resale permit. You may also need to provide your tax ID number or submit copies of invoices from other wholesalers with whom you already have relationships. Keep in mind that, as a new business, you may struggle to qualify as a reseller–especially if you are trying to open accounts with elite brands. 

When consulting with a representative, be sure to ask for information about pricing, how to establish pricing, etc. Always behave as a professional and use every contact as an opportunity to work toward building a strong relationship. 

Build and Maintain Relationships with Your Wholesale Suppliers

The hard work doesn’t stop once you have opened accounts with the appropriate wholesalers. You still need to take steps to build and maintain a positive relationship. Building a solid relationship with a wholesaler or a representative could give you access to better pricing, hard-to-find merchandise and favorable payment and credit terms. If you want your wholesaler to take care of you, though, you need to take care of them. 

Whether you’re sending an email, making a phone call or meeting in person, always be respectful of the representative’s time. Be friendly but professional, and treat every person you encounter with dignity and respect. If you have even a small problem, address it before it becomes a larger one. And remember to be nice even when there is a problem. No one enjoys being screamed at or being disrespected. 

Pay your invoices on time. If you can pay them earlier than the due date, that’s even better. Don’t make your wholesalers track you down because you own them money. Staying on top of your account and making timely payments goes a long way toward building a positive relationship. 

If you do run into financial problems and anticipate you won’t be able to make a payment on time, communicate this with the wholesaler. Let the company know right away that your payment will be late, and tell them when they can expect to receive it. If you are unable to make the full payment, send a smaller amount as a show of good faith. Most people understand that things come up and will work with you if you have a bad month. Always do your best to make timely payments, but if trouble arises, talk to your representative right away to keep them in the loop. 

Price for Profit

Once your wholesale orders have started rolling in, it’s time to price your merchandise. For many people, establishing the right prices is the most difficult part of running a retail business. If you charge too much, potential buyers may be put off and end up buying from one of your competitors instead. If you charge too little, you run the risk of not earning enough profit to make a living. Pricing can make or break your business, so it’s important to get it right. 

Keystone Pricing

While there are a lot of different methods of pricing, Keystone Pricing serves as a general rule of thumb for the retail industry. With this method, you simply double the wholesale price to come up with a retail price. In other words, if you buy polo shirts wholesale for $5 each, you should sell them for $10. 

This method isn’t always the best, though. While it will give you a solid jumping-off point for pricing, other factors need to be taken into consideration, such as overhead costs, your target audience, etc. You may also want to consider your competitors’ pricing to get a feel for the price point the market will support. If you plan on selling customized garments, you also need to consider the cost of customization supplies and how much time it takes to create each piece. 


Whether you’re dreaming of building a full-time career or you are just looking for a way to supplement your current income, starting a clothing business with buying wholesale could be the solution. Buying wholesale doesn’t always have to mean ordering hundreds of pieces at a time. In fact, you can score great wholesale prices on much smaller quantities. This makes it possible to start a clothing business on virtually any budget. 

At ShirtMax, we have wholesale t-shirts, hoodies, polos, sweatpants and more. If you are looking for wardrobe staples to customize or resell as-is, we have you covered. We don’t have any special requirements for buyers and offer many products without minimum order quantities. Browse our website today to find what you need to launch your business!