How to Approach Bangkok Wholesale Suppliers

Many retailers, re-sellers and agents come to Bangkok to approach wholesale suppliers for goods for their small business. These goods range from the more common items like clothing, shoes, bags and accessories to home decor, Thai food and ingredients. As mentioned in my previous blog post, the best places to source these goods are in Pratunam, Chatuchak Market and Bobae Market. Bangkok goods are known for their wide range of choices at good wholesale prices, so approaching Bangkok wholesale suppliers is key to starting your own small business.

Shopping for ladies purses in Bangkok
Shopping for ladies purses in Bangkok

Establishing business relationships with customers are just as important as the relationships we make with suppliers. Coming to Bangkok offers some advantages. Apart from the selection of shopping choices and price not easily found in other countries, this tourist mecca offers its hugely popular local cuisine and cultural destinations that reflect the Thai way of life. But approaching Thai suppliers can also be tedious especially with the language barrier so keeping your non-verbal communication in check can take you a long way.

I have been sourcing all of my goods from Bangkok suppliers and it wasn’t easy at first, especially when my intention was to promote their products first on my Facebook Page and online store before I make the order. Here are a few do’s to remember when approaching Bangkok wholesale suppliers:

  1. Keep body gestures in check. Smile and be friendly. Thais are generally friendly and polite. But oftentimes, they tend to be less accommodating of requests when a foreigner is brash. It’s good to make a good first impression especially if they will serve as your main point of contact should you receive your goods upon making your order.
  2. Check the staff’s language comprehension and adjust your use of words. As a foreigner, we may not be able to speak Thai but this should not be a problem. Speaking with the store staff you will see they are able to communicate (or find someone else who can) in basic English. In this case, it’s best to adjust our use of words when we communicate, finding the most basic of words then use them, especially when we have a special request or need to send important information across.
  3. Ask for the normal price first. Then the wholesale price. Then the “price for business”. It’s customary to ask for the price and negotiate, but if you are looking to source goods for your business, it’s very important to mention that this is for business. For some reason, they probably understand the plight of a small business owner and are willing to go through leaps and bounds to give you a special price.
  4. Find out if they are on Facebook, have a blog or website. This is very important especially if your strategy is to check the pulse of the customers first and see how they respond to the product. You may not want to immediately buy a big quantity of their goods and not be able sell it. The last thing you want to happen is be left with an inventory of products that don’t sell. If the suppliers are on Facebook, have a blog or website, check how their own customers are responding to their items. Do they have a lot of likes, comments or shares on Facebook or their blog?
  5. Ask if possible to take pictures or if you can access photos of their goods online. Having access to product photos online or being able to take pictures yourself presents a distinct advantage because it shows they are willing to establish a business relationship with you. In addition, if you have product photos, you are able to post these pictures on your own site, and will help you check how your own market is responding to those items.
  6. Get their business card. Then email or call the owner to ask for more info and discuss pricing. Ask for a business card? Like, duh. But here’s what I think. If I’m unable to take pictures or they don’t have any photos online, there’s no point for me to get their business card. Why? Because I think a decent supplier must have at least an online presence. How am I able to promote your goods without pictures? Having pictures to show your potential customers is like being able to do a test drive. Will you buy a car without first going for a spin?
Shopping for ladies slippers in Bangkok
Shopping for ladies slippers in Bangkok

Is there anything else I may have missed? Do you wish to share your own experiences with Bangkok wholesale suppliers? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. In my next blog post, I will feature the next level of shopping bags – funky and funny but not without a strong marketing message.

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