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How to Become a Retail Distributor

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If you like working with businesses, money and specific products, then you may be interested in becoming a retail distributor. A retail distributor is a job that entails many responsibilities, and those who work in the industry may work more hours than those in other industries. But being able to interact with others and be sure that important products get to reach the appropriate consumers can be a rewarding field. If you're interested in becoming a retail distributor, there's a few things you'll need to know.

What Is a Retail Distributor?

A retailer is any person who sells products through a brick and mortar store or an online e-commerce shop. Anyone can theoretically become a retailer as there are many resources and solutions available, such as drop shipping, that make getting into the business fairly easy.

A retail distributor, on the other hand, is the person who buys items, usually at wholesale prices from a manufacturer, and distributes the items to stores that want to sell them. The distributor is essentially a middleman between the manufacturer/factor/wholesaler and the retailer – without them, your favorite stores could never update their inventory. A retail distributor helps to keep things fresh in the shopping world so consumers can get the products they consistently use and rely on.

Job Description and Salary of a Retail Distributor

First and foremost, a retail distributor's main job involves forming relationships with product manufacturers, negotiating pricing and contracts with them, then fulfilling their end of the contract by finding retailers to distribute the product.

Typically, a retail distributor will have certain terms outlined in the contract, for instance, that the manufacturer cannot sell to another distributor or where the manufacturer will need to fulfill orders at a certain pace. Likewise, the distributor may have to create another contract with the retailer, who is agreeing to buy the products from the distributor and who will then sell them at their own price.

Throughout this process, deals are made so that each person in the supply chain can make a profit. A retail distributor's job salary varies depending on their role and how large the portfolios are that they manage, as well as how good of a negotiator they are. But, in general, the average wholesale distributor salary is $61,275 annually.

Examples of Retail Distribution Job

There are many types of jobs that a person can have in the retail distribution industry. However, you'll find that most distributor positions usually fall into just three types:

  • Wholesale distributors.
  • Manufacturer's sales and branch offices.
  • Brokers and commission agents.

If you're not yet interested in starting your own retail distribution business, you can begin by getting some experience in the field. To do this, work at a manufacturer's office and sales department or work for retailers who need distributors to introduce them to products.

You can choose to aim big and land a job as a distributor working with major retailers, such as big-name department stores like Macy's or clothing stores like H&M. Or, you can work on a smaller scale, helping a friend who runs a local boutique shop find seasonal items for her store. Retail can refer to clothing, furniture, jewelry, makeup, food or anything that's considered a finished good. You can also work as a retail distributor online, but this type of retail distribution is a bit different from the others.

How to Become a Retail Distributor

If you're interested in becoming a retail distributor, you will first have to meet the general qualifications. Though you do not need a college degree to become a retail distributor, it may be helpful to have a degree in business, economics, management or some related field. What's more important is that you're a good salesperson, you work well with others, you're quick on your feet, and numbers and relationships come easily to you. You'll also need a knack for picking out hot and trendy items.

Get Familiar With the Industry

Even if you have all the skills necessary for being a retail distributor, you will still need to familiarize yourself with this specific industry. For example, if you're transitioning from being a car salesman to a retail distributor, you'll notice that some things overlap. But, if you're unfamiliar with retail, you'll need to research how certain stores choose their products. There are some common industry terms to help you get started:

  • B2B vs. B2C.
  • Stock-keeping unit.
  • Cash flow.
  • Appreciation vs. depreciation.
  • Profit and loss statement.
  • Gross profit.
  • Inventory turnover.
  • Selling expenses.
  • Niche marketing.
  • Fulfillment and suppliers.

Consider Your Goals

Once you feel that you have a good hang of what your job will require as a retail distributor, it's time to think about your goals. Why do you want to become a retail distributor? Do you want to become a retail distributor because you want to make more money? Do you want more freedom in your job? What about the ability to bring cool products to people? Considering why you want to go into this field in the first place can help you pave a path that will lead to a successful career.

Decide What and Where You Want to Sell

If you have all your goals laid out, the next step is to decide what and where you want to sell. Do you want to distribute just one product, or do you want to keep distributing new items consistently? What is your niche? Are you looking to sell clothing, products, gadgets, furniture or something else?

Part of deciding what you want to distribute also involves thinking about where you want to distribute. Before getting into the geographic details, you'll have to decide if you want to work in a brick and mortar store or on an e-commerce platform. Making this decision depends on how much flexibility you want to have in terms of where your workplace will be.

If you're wondering how to become a distributor at home, then taking the e-commerce route is the way to go, as it's very easy to set up your own store through websites like Shopify. In these instances, you will usually fill the roles of the distributor and the retailer, as consumers can buy directly from you once you choose the products you want to sell.

Promote Your Product and Make Relationships

Now that you know what you want to distribute and where you want to do it, you'll need to promote your product. These days, it's very easy to advertise products online, even if you're doing brick and mortar. By using social media and other digital marketing techniques, you can connect with manufacturers and retailers that you can potentially work with.

Create Contracts and Determine Payment Terms

How are you going to get paid and when? This is very important to decide when you're a retail distributor to avoid any problems. To do this, it's helpful to have contract templates and payment information readily available, even if you have to alter them for each transaction.

There are many different ways to go about this in the business, for example, through one-time payments, payment increments and commissions. As you go on, you and those you'll work with will decide which options work best. Just make sure you have a consistent system for filing invoices and receiving timely payments.

Repeat and Grow Your Business

Last but not least, if you want to become a retail distributor, then you'll have to be hardworking and determined. Even though this industry is growing rapidly, it's also changing, which is making it much more competitive. Stay focused, be willing to always improve and take advice from those who have done it before.


Hana LaRock has been a content writer for more than five years. As part of her work as a contributor to numerous websites, Hana enjoys helping people find a new path in their lives, whether it involves editing a resume or providing information on finding work abroad.

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