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Wholesale Buying Vs. Retail Buying

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Wholesale and retail buyers both purchase items or commodities that are to be resold. The main difference between the two is the end point of the goods.

Definition of Wholesale Buying

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Wholesale buying deals with the purchasing of inventory to resell at a profit margin to retail establishments or businesses. Wholesale buyers purchase goods or commodities directly from manufacturers or suppliers and then, in turn, sell to those who would sell to the general public. Wholesale buying generally entails the purchase of large amounts of products to be resold to one or more retailers.

Definition of Retail Buying

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In contrast, retail buying deals with purchasing inventory for sale directly to consumers. Retail buying involves market research, tracking inventory and negotiating with suppliers and typically deals with a smaller quantity of items than wholesale buying.

Price Variation

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While wholesale and retail buying share similarities, the prices they pay for the same goods differ. Retail buyers purchase goods at a higher price than wholesale buyers, who are able to enjoy discounts based on the large quantities they procure.

Quantity of Inventory

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Wholesale buying involves purchasing larger quantities of inventory at a lower or discounted price to resell to a retail establishment. Retail buying involves purchasing smaller quantities of an item to sell directly to consumers.

Business Opportunities for Wholesale Buying

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Wholesale buying involves several distinct business models. Traditionally, wholesale buyers purchased an inventory of a good or commodity for resale and acted as middlemen between the manufacturer and the retailer. In today's economy, however, the line is often blurred between warehouse stores and online suppliers. Wholesale buyers can also purchase and resell items directly on online auction sites.

Career Opportunities in Retail Buying

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Retail buying offers career paths in department stores and other businesses that sell items directly to the consumer. Retail buyers typically track inventory on a computer, follow trends and use market research techniques to discover which items would best sell.


Beth Cone is a Los Angeles-based writer and was the style and health, beauty, and fitness columnist for "On The Boulevard Magazine" in the San Fernando Valley-based magazine from 1990 through 1992. She is a publicist and artists representative with clients in Northern and Southern California. A graduate from Vanderbilt University, Cone has a degree in Spanish and fine arts.

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