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Wholesale vs Retail: Meaning and Differences

Prince Goel

Senior Software Engineer @ Shiprocket

July 27, 2023

5 min read

While starting a business, it is important for you to understand the difference between wholesale and retail, as it allows you to contemplate your business goals. For instance, if you plan to enter the e-commerce business, you need to consider the sales channels on which you will sell your products and how to utilize them most effectively. 

Likewise, one of the initial steps is to comprehend if you wish to go into the wholesale or retail model, as only after then can you determine your business strategy. The choice of your business model also influences the supply chain you might set up and the kind of inventory you keep. Therefore if you are having a hard time considering the two, then this article will help you take the right decision as we discuss the difference between the two and also talk about the benefits of both models.

What is Retail?

The term “retail” describes the distribution model whereby products and services are sold to the end consumer. For instance, department stores are a common type of retail establishment. Customers at department shops do not need to employ the services of a middleman in order to make a purchase once inside the store. 

A retail business sells its finished goods to consumers through direct client interaction. Unlike wholesalers, who often deal in a wide variety of products, most retail businesses specialize in a narrow range of goods and services. 

The main aim of retailers is to satisfy their customers by fulfilling their expectations and providing exceptional service. For this, they set up big stores in malls and markets to curate different types of products and make them available to customers.

What is Wholesale?

Wholesalers or wholesale is the model where establishments sell goods and services to retailers rather than the final consumer. For instance, a business selling various type of garments to retail stores in an area is a wholesaler.

Wholesalers typically give discounts to retailers who buy in large quantities of their discounted goods. Wholesalers make a profit even when they reduce the price of their products since their selling price is greater than their cost. A wholesaler can either work solely as a middleman between manufacturers and retailers or get the products manufactured themselves before selling them.

What is the Difference Between Wholesale and Retail?

Wholesale vs Retail

Other than selling it to the end customer or not, there are many factors where wholesalers and retailers work differently. Some of them are listed below:

Customer Experience

One key distinction between wholesalers and retailers is that retailers emphasize the customer service and experience they provide. Retailers put a lot of effort into building brand awareness and convincing potential customers to buy from them. They invest a lot of time and money into ensuring the store’s layout, staff, and marketing campaigns all work together to provide a positive experience for customers.

Unlike retailers, wholesalers often don’t deal directly with consumers. This implies that they don’t have a storefront or other visible location where customers can visit them. Because of this, wholesalers care much less about the satisfaction of their clients.

Price of the Products

Generally, a retailer marks up an item’s price from what they paid at wholesale. Products sold by wholesalers are often discounted when purchased in large quantities, allowing retailers to turn a profit when selling them to consumers. Wholesalers generally give significant discounts on their wares to encourage stores to stock up.

Expenditures Incurred

In general, retailers have higher costs than wholesalers. Retailers must invest time and resources into advertising, marketing, and other consumer acquisition strategies. Retailers also have to pay overheads like rent and salaries. Typically, wholesalers have to incur lesser costs as their only clientele is retailers. Furthermore, wholesalers often have lower overhead and shipping costs than retailers since they move products in greater quantities.

Control over Product

Retailers have more control over the products they wish to sell. They are the ones who decide when to sell, which channels to use and the price of their products. Retailers are at the receiving end and get direct feedback from the clients and therefore decide what to avail them as per their needs. They also are the first ones in the value chain who get to know what is the performance of the product and how they are being received by the customers.

Wholesalers, on the other hand, have less control over the products and supply chain and cannot decide whom to sell and how to sell. This is because once the products are with retailers, wholesalers have no say in what and how they are being sold.


Both retailing and wholesaling are important parts of the supply chain, and both have very distinct roles. On the one hand, retailing is more about prioritizing the needs and wants of the final consumer, whereas, on the other hand, wholesaling is more about selling in bulk and providing retailers with the necessary products to earn a profit. Though they have different roles, it is up to you which role you might want to play in the supply chain if you are eyeing to start your own business.

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