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Definition of buying wholesale

Wholesale is the selling of goods in large quantities, usually for
retail by others.

  • The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
  • Clarendon Press - Oxford - 1993
Wholesale is the selling of goods in large quantities, usually for
Retail by others.

Evidently the wholesalers I work with have not read this definition,
unless it means a large quantity, but not to one Person. I can buy
one part or one gold chain at wholesale.

Wholesale is the selling of goods in large quantities... 

I think the reason there’s been so much controversy about this word
"wholesale" is that some people insist on the historical meaning of
the word while others prefer the more modern reinterpretation. Here’s
the historical meaning:

“c.1417, ‘in large quantities,’ from whole + sale.”

This is from the Online Etymology Dictionary ().

The current meaning, however, is what most of us understand by the
word. Wikipedia () puts it well:

“Wholesaling consists of the sale of goods/merchandise to retailers,
to industrial, commercial, institutional, or other professional
business users or to other wholesalers and related subordinated

So everybody is correct, depending on the context, on who’s
talking and on who’s listening :-). End of debate?


Hi Beth…

And List…

What about all of them folks that advertise as selling “Wholesale to
the Public…”……

I do Industrial Distribution for the day job…

We’re one of those “middle men” some folks gripe about…

Look…we pay our dues…

My outfit sits at about $1.5 Million in inventory at any given

We will sell to most anyone…don’t really have a show room…
We do have a Will-Call counter…

But if you don’t have a resale license we’ll hit you for the
Governor’s share, aka sales tax… We have to…the tax man does

If you buy a large quantity, you’ll get a better price…

You cannot buy 10 1/4-20 hex nuts from me…you’ll have to buy

If you buy 100,000 at one shot…I can get you a good deal…!

My customer can order a box of hex nuts, 2 shovels, a case of
Aero-Kroil*, 144 drill bits in 12 sizes, some Snow Melt for his
sidewalks, a couple of files, a Milwaukee Hole Shooter, a Craftsman
15/16 deep socket, a dozen 1/4 wire rope clips and a case of toilet
paper…all on one PO…

One transaction for a whole bunch of what might seem to be unrelated
stuff… Unless that’s what it’s taking to keep your plant running…

This makes makes life a whole lot easier for my customer…

Is my outfit a wholesaler…?


I’m a distributor…a middle man…

There’s outfits that wholesale commodities to my company…

It’s a chain of supply thing…

My job is to make it easier for those folks in industry that have
wants and needs…

I’ll muddy the waters even further…

Master Lock is a manufacturer…My outfit a distributor for Master

800 Pound Gorilla Customer comes to us for two kinds of padlocks,
have to be non-magnetic…entirely…One kind has to all have the
same key… The other has to have different keys…(keys
non-magnetic also)

When an MRI machine fires up, ferrous items can become

Sourcing, Purchasing, Environmental (aka safety), and End User of
customer all had input**…

Got everybody lined up…initial order…6,000 padlocks to go
World Wide…

Sold them maybe another 8,000 since, between the two types…

Am I wholesaler…or a retailer…? My sale was to the end
user…but to their distribution center in bulk…which sends them
out in much smaller quantities around the World…

What’s the whole point of my rant…?

There’s this big chain of distribution of whatever…applies to
whatever and whichever your looking at…be it MRO supplies, or
the jewelry industry…

The thing for anyone to look at…is where on the chain you want to
or have to be, to get what you want to get done, done…

The folks on the chain (wherever they are) want to sell to you…
It’s what they do…

But there’s rules…

Gary W. Bourbonais
A.J.P. (GIA)

*About once a year, one of the major players in industry MRO (they
take turns) comes out with something that "is as good as"
Aero-Kroil… Folks what use it more or less tell them to shove

Think of WD-40/Tri-Flow/CRC on steroids…

Except this stuff has been around as long as, if not before

**The research lab tried to make the padlocks go magnetic…and
they were nothing ferrous, except maybe the lock pins…? The
environmental guy clued me into this… I have no idea what they did
to them poor padlocks…

As far as we are in state of technology, they could not get said
padlocks to act magnetic…

Yeah, I know, by it’s very nature, etc., it can’t happen…

But them engineers really tried…


Thank you. I think this is a consise definition of what "wholesale"
really means in today’s world. Based on this definition, Rio Grande,
IJS, Stuller, as well as most suppliers to the industry, can be
considered “wholesalers” even though their prices and customer
qualification requirements may differ. Another point that I would
like to make on this subject is that some suppliers want to make
their slice of the market pie bigger by simply offering the lowest
price, while other suppliers want to make the whole pie bigger for
everyone by offering more than the lowest price.


Hi Gary,

Am I wholesaler...or a retailer....? 

You’re both, of course. You’re a wholesaler when you sell wholesale
and a retailer when you sell retail :-). Like I said in my last post:
It depends on the context, on who’s talking and on who’s listening!


Just a small addition. You can also sell to a retailer and not
collect tax–they collect it. If all your sales are to retailers,
e.g. galleries, and you buy all your supplies from a retailer, e.g.
Rio, you have no need for a resale license.

Although that is technically true, in my store you would still be
required to produce a state-issued resale number to be able to
purchase wholesale with no sales tax charged. And I know that many
other retailers also require the documentation. 

But only if you wanted to save on the sales tax. It never seemed
worth it to me–saving a few dollars and then having to do more
paperwork. Never mind that I agree with the more libertarian posters,
who don’t like paying their own wages while working for the state.

I bought almost all my “bulk” supplies from out of state retail
vendors, so I paid no sales tax anyway. I ran the numbers and, for
the way I was doing business, and the amount I was doing, it really
wasn’t worth my time (I was paying myself $25/hr–for every minute I
spent on the business). Because I asked for, and got, top dollar for
my jewelry, I didn’t need a few pennies extra profit per piece.

Of course, if I started up again, and ran the numbers now, it might
be different. Given that the price of silver has doubled since I shut
down (never mind what has happened to gold, and even copper), it
might be worth it to get myself a Stuller account.

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US

My question is how are the people who are making 'non-wearable'
jewelry making a living? Unless an entirely new genre of 'jewelry
art' that you hang on the wall instead of wearing becomes
fashionable, who is buying these fantastic pieces 

The answer to your question would be - the same people who are
buying a Thierry Muegler…or some other haute couture Fashion
Designer. I think that people who design on this level don’t expect
something to be wearable, but to maybe stretch the collective
imaginations of the industry - to do something so fanciful that
maybe a sillhouette or a technique can start a trend.

Robyn Hawk
Gemsdb, Marketing Rep., USA