Playing sports and watching sports are two major pastimes for people around the world. Since sports are a timeless activity, it has created several industries full of opportunities for wholesalers.
Since there are millions of players and diehard fans who need to dress the part, sports apparel is a hot market.
In this article, we will teach you how to sell wholesale sports apparel online. We’ll discuss some of the basics of starting a B2B sports apparel business before we get into a step-by-step tutorial. Then, we will review some of the top tips for making your wholesale sports apparel business a success.
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Wholesaling describes trade in bulk quantities, specifically between two businesses. There is a tremendous opportunity for those who want to use a wholesale business model for selling sports clothing.
The sports apparel industry is currently quite large, and it continues to grow. The sports apparel industry was valued at $167.7 billion in 2018. It is expected to grow to $248.1 billion by 2026.1
There are several directions to take in this sort of business in terms of potential niche markets and items to sell. This creates many paths and opportunities for those who are interested in the industry.
There are several reasons why someone might start a B2B sports apparel business on the internet.
For starters, there is value in starting an online wholesale sports apparel business because B2B e-commerce is on the rise. Last year, the B2B e-commerce industry grew by 17.8% to the whopping US $1.63 trillion.2 This creates tremendous opportunities for aspiring wholesalers who are ready to roll their sleeves up and get to work.
Another perk to starting a business, in general, is that the potential earnings are much higher than a regular salary job. There is no cap on how much you make. Of course, there is more risk involved, but for many, the potential reward is worth it.
Although the potential monetary gain is appealing, some people simply start B2B sports apparel businesses because of a particular passion or interest in the industry. For example, a retired athlete who noticed a need in their industry for a particular item might start a wholesale business to address that need.
The process of starting a business is a little bit different for each unique entity. However, there are some basic steps that you’ll encounter when starting most wholesale sports apparel businesses.
As you enter the wholesale sports apparel space, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the industry. Take some time to explore the ins and outs of wholesale, and take a close look at the wholesale apparel industry.
The internet is full of valuable resources for aspiring wholesalers.
It is also a good idea to take a look at what your competition looks like. What are others doing right? What are others doing wrong? Doing this sort of assessment will give you clarity on how you can stand out and excel as an athletic clothing wholesaler.
If you are struggling to find what you’re looking for, we recommend finding somebody who is experienced within the industry. This person could consult with you or mentor you to help you learn the ins and outs.
There are so many ways to go within the sports apparel market. The first thing to consider when choosing a niche is who you’d like to sell to.
You could focus on apparel for a specific sports team or league, or you could go the route of athleisure wear for fans. Even within those two categories, there are hundreds of other niche options.
For example, you could specialize in a specific style of athleisure for women, such as yoga clothes or running clothes. Another option is to sell one piece of apparel for players of a specific sport, such as football with pads or competition suits for swimmers.
Choosing a niche makes it easier to target a specific audience, which will help to improve your marketing and sales strategies.
After you’ve chosen a niche and determined who you’re going to serve, it is time to choose items to sell.
Sports team apparel could include jerseys, gameday uniforms, training gear, warm-up outfits, and hats. Within athleisure, you could sell a variety of styles, including t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, yoga pants, hoodies, jackets, and sports bras.
You can start with a small collection of items that are all related to each other and valuable to your target audience.
As a wholesaler, there are a couple of ways to build an inventory for your sports apparel business. You either have to source it from another supplier, or you have to manufacture the products yourself.
If you are just getting started, finding another supplier may be the way to go because it is much simpler. However, if you have the resources, manufacturing the products yourself is a good way to go.
Starting a clothing manufacturing business is a major undertaking on its own. We recommend checking out our guide to starting a clothing manufacturing business for more information on that part of the process.
Now, it is time to build your online storefront. If you are operating entirely online, this will be your alternative to a traditional brick-and-mortar store. Even if you have a physical shop, the online component makes it easier to grow and scale.
Wholesalers should consider two main types of online storefronts: a storefront on a B2B marketplace or a storefront on your independent website. Each of these comes with a handful of pros and cons, but they are both valuable to wholesalers. That’s why we recommend using both approaches to maximize your success.
Building a storefront on a B2B marketplace, such as Alibaba.com, is typically pretty simple. With most marketplaces, you can customize your storefront and upload products once your account has been verified and approved. This is a quick and easy way to get started.
Another benefit of building a storefront on a B2B marketplace is that they are typically the go-to destinations for those who are looking to source items in bulk. This helps to drive continuous traffic to your listings.
On the other hand, building a storefront on your own website gives you a bit more control. You can customize the branding and layout in a way that might not be possible on some marketplaces. Also, you don’t have to worry about any revenue splits or fees.
The downside to using your own website as your store is that you have to handle the design and build yourself. Plus, you probably won’t get as many eyes on your listings as you would on a marketplace because you have to rely on other channels to drive traffic.
Once you have your inventory prepared and your website ready to go, it is time to launch your business.
When you launch, you’re going to need to deploy marketing and sales strategy. We recommend diving into sales pipeline management to figure out the best approach for your business. This will help you determine how to get leads, how to nurture leads, and how to close more deals.
Now that you have a better idea of the process of starting a B2B sports apparel business, let’s discuss some of the top tips for finding success in this sort of business.
With sports fans, representing a specific team or player is major. If you have the resources, it is wise to offer customizations to your sports apparel. That way, your buyers can source items that make the most sense for their customer base.
For example, you might have a buyer in New York City that wants apparel to represent the hockey teams in the area. They’d likely be selling to Rangers and Islanders fans, so offering customization for those franchises would give you a leg up.
If you are selling to smaller organizations that are looking for apparel for their own teams, you may consider offering customization of numbers and names for each player. Of course, these orders will be significantly smaller than most wholesale orders, but if they have a large team, it might make sense for your business.
When you’re selling branded sports apparel, you have to be careful about using the logos to create licensed apparel for different sports franchises. For many sports teams, you have to get permission from the league that they participate in.
For example, if you want to produce custom apparel for the Dallas Cowboys, you’d need to get permission from the National Football League (NFL). With the NFL, there is a lot of criteria to be licensed to produce branded products, but it is not impossible. One thing to note is that you have to be both a manufacturer and a wholesaler, rather than just a wholesale distributor.3
The process varies by league and organization, so do some research on your intended customizations to make sure you’re in the clear.
As you price your products, it is important to choose appropriate prices for the real value of your product.
It is important to recognize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “best deal.” Price according to the quality of your apparel. For example, if you sell high-end sports apparel, don’t be afraid to bump up the price to attract premium buyers.
Sometimes, it is a good idea to mark your prices up a little so you have room to negotiate and make potential buyers feel like they are getting a better deal.
Did you know that it is more cost-effective to retain customers rather than to regularly onboard new ones? With that said, prioritizing customer service and constantly nurturing your existing customer base is so incredibly important.4
Do your best to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations. Make buying with you an easy process, and take steps to ensure that orders are fulfilled and shipped in a timeline manner.
With wholesaling, you play an important role in your buyers’ businesses, so it is important to take those partnerships and commitments seriously.
When you’re trying to find new buyers, it is important to have proof of past results. Positive reviews and testimonials will help to show potential customers that your business is reliable and trustworthy.
Even though negative feedback can be hard to hear, it can provide valuable insight for the future of your business. If there are consistent complaints about one aspect of your business, it will be easy to see how you can make improvements to better your business as a whole.
The support of a B2B e-commerce marketplace can come in handy, especially if your goal is to expand into cross-border trade.
Alibaba.com is one of the largest B2B marketplaces in the entire world. Our platform has over 26 million active buyers, which makes finding leads a breeze. Plus, we offer a variety of tools for those who are looking to start or scale their wholesale businesses, such as onboarding support, demand forecasting tools, product boosting, and more.
Open a seller account on Alibaba.com to start selling in no time.