Learning how to find suppliers for drop shipping is all about hunkering down and going to work and working your way through the many online directories and marketplaces.
Aliexpress is a starting point for many but there are dozens of Chinese suppliers who dropship. Finding USA suppliers is harder, more expensive but can really help to streamline your dropshipping business.
There are also a few lesser known strategies for finding dropshipping suppliers and we will cover most of them here.
My goal with this article is to give you a really broad overview of the different options you have for suppliers when you dropship.
If your ecommerce business is based on dropshipping then finding reliable, affordable and quality dropshipper is essential. In fact, it is the very lifeline of your business.
The quality of your business is only as good as the quality of your supplier. Slow shipping times and poor quality products have ruined many dropshipping businesses that showed a lot of potential.
I have been on the receiving end of this – more than once!
There is only one thing worse than having a dropshipping business that’s not making sales and that is to have a store that sells like gangbusters but you can find a decent supplier.
Most entrepreneurs find a way into dropshipping via Aliexpress. This is usually where the problems start.
Aliexpress, China And ‘The COVID Effect’
Aliexpress is by far the easiest place to source products for dropshipping but it is also the worst way to build a sustainable business.
Back in 2012, dropshipping from Aliexpress was a different ballgame. Almost nobody knew about Aliexpress and those who did was still reluctant to order directly from China.
This made it easy for dropshippers who had beautiful storefronts with perfect english and that looked legit.
In 2019 things changed significantly as ePacket shipping became problematic and way too many inferior sellers crowded Aliexpress.
When COVID hit, shipping anything from China became a huge problem and many dropshippers had to suspend their sales.
This led to a massive rush to find suppliers for dropshipping from the USA. While the problems started well before COVID, I think it was perhaps the final nail in the coffin.
COVID pushed a lot of shoppers online and those with robust supply chains benefited from it. Dropshipping from China is not a robust supply chain and dropshipping businesses struggled through COVID because of that.
Is this the end of dropshipping from China and Aliexpress?
I strongly doubt it. I am sure that in the next few years there will be new trade agreements and new shipping options that will once again make Aliexpress more attractive.
For the time being, I use Aliexpress very sparingly. It is a great way to test products and to see if a particular product or niche pans out or not.
It is quick and easy and you can almost start selling a product within an hour or two.
If you have an established online store then using Aliexpress to find and test new products is not a bad option.
If you are starting a new store then I would steer clear of Aliexpress. There are thousands of USA and UK based suppliers for dropshipping.
You can remove many of your biggest issues in your dropshipping business by starting off with a great supplier on day one.
It really makes the difference between a business being here in 2 years from now versus a business that only makes it past one Xmas season (this is usually when the dropshipping issues from China gets amplified).
Seeing the bigger picture is important.
I like to sleep well at night. I like to sell quality products and make customers happy. I feel a moral obligation and want to be part of making eCommerce better instead of polluting it with crap products and poor shopping experiences.
Finding Reliable Drop Shipping Suppliers In China
Finding reliable drop shipping suppliers in China can be a challenge. Chinese sellers will tell you anything you want to hear just to secure your business.
They will do anything to make money and then try and fix things later. There are exceptions but this is just the way it is.
The real benefit in finding suppliers for dropshipping from China is the fact that most commercial products are manufactured in China.
Sourcing products directly from China means you are as close to the source of manufacture as you possibly can be.
Factory workers are paid pittance and most raw materials are dirt cheap. This makes it very hard to beat China in terms of prices.
Compare that to manufacture in the USA. There’s a high minimum wage, super strict health and safety regulations to implement with a very long laundry list of overheads to pay.
While there are many issues with drop shipping from China, you will soon discover that dropshipping from anywhere else gives you very low margins by comparison.
There are essentially 3 options to find suppliers for dropshipping from China
- Dedicated Drop Shippers
- Private Agents
Understanding how Aliexpress works is key. It is essentially a marketplace similar to eBay with thousands of sellers.
Most of these sellers are also dropshippers in some shape or form. At the better end, they will physically buy, warehouse and ship their products for you.
The worst end is when they dropship YOUR products directly from Chinese sites like Taobao.com and 1688.com.
There are however many legit manufacturers who sell directly on Aliexpress. They are much harder to find but these are the really good ones to work with.
With them there is no ‘middle man’ and they tend to have much higher quality products.
While this does not ensure faster shipping or better fulfillment times it does provide you with higher quality products though.
If you have to go with Aliexpress, try and find manufacturers who are selling directly on the platform.
2. Dedicated Drop Shippers (Decentralized Drop Shippers)
Dropshipping from China became a huge business and many entrepreneurs spotted the opportunity.
The frustration with Aliexpress lead to many dedicated drop shippers seizing the opportunity.
Essentially, what they do is that they have their own warehouses and they will stock their own products. They take on some of the risk by buying inventory upfront for certain products.
They also have better shipping lanes available to them. Most of them will use Yun Express or SF Express which have dedicated cargo flights between the USA and China.
This means that they often fulfill your order within 24 hours and can get a parcel to the USA in 8-12 days.
They do quality control and make sure they don’t ship out defective products or something that is obviously crap.
The 5 most popular options are:
They have thousands of products and they now also have a USA warehouse (with more planned) and works as easy as Oberlo does for Aliexpress.
If you can’t find a product you are looking for you can request for them to source it. In most cases they can.
These dedicated drop shippers tend to be a bit more expensive than Aliexpress and their shipping rates are dictated by their logistics services – and it can be quite high.
The overall user experience tends to be much better though. Shipping times are much better although it still takes around 10 days for your customers to get their order.
Some of them have really neat features like custom packaging and even laser engraving (for your logo or brand) on the products themselves.
You really can build a legitimate brand when sourcing products from these suppliers.
3. Private Agents
The upper end of using drop shipping suppliers from China is by using a private agent. This obviously comes with a lot more risk, so proceed with caution.
The way private agents work is that they will buy stock for you and keep it in their own warehouse space. As your orders come in, they will ship it for you – usually the same day and ship via SF Express or Yun Express.
The big issue is that with private agents you have to wire them money so they can buy stock up front. This is risky business.
It is also the fastest and often the most economical way to dropship from China.
Private agents are ideal if you do large volume with limited SKU’s. In fact if you only sell one or two products this makes total sense.
If you have a big catalogue of products then this makes no sense at all and you are probably better off with a dedicated dropshipping company like CJ Dropshipping.
Finding Suppliers For Drop Shipping From The USA
For many drop shippers the idea of finding a drop shipping supplier in the USA may seem like the holy grail.
The idea of having a local supplier that can dropship quality products for you and get it to your customer in 5 days sure does sound ‘perfect’.
In some ways it is.
Many of the persistent and demoralizing problems you face when your supplier dropships from China can vanish overnight with the right USA supplier.
There are many different challenges though. The biggest is of course finding the right supplier with the right products and above all – finding the right price.
You will soon discover that the margins are nowhere near what they are when you source products from China.
Drop shipping with USA suppliers is a completely different ballgame. It requires a different mindset.
Many of the ‘viral products’ that fill your newsfeed simply won’t be found anywhere in USA based catalogues.
If you are currently dropshipping these low cost ‘gimmicky’ products and looking for a USA based drops shipper to sell the same then you will most likely be disappointed.
There are essentially two ways to approach finding suppliers for drop shipping from the USA.
The first is to think about products that are actually being manufactured in the USA and the second is with large importers and distributors who offer dropshipping.
- Manual Outreach
- Wholesalers and Wholesale Directories
- Dropshipping Apps
- Chinese Drop Shippers in the USA
- Walmart, Amazon, Etsy and Ebay
1. Manual Outreach
This is the best approach with products that are being manufactured in the USA. This will typically be small to medium size companies that have their own products and who are actively looking for people to sell their product.
Finding these types of products is not easy. Finding these types of products that do not already have heavy branding is even harder.
It really depends a lot on the type of product. If you come across cool products that you think could sell well, hit them up.
Do not start off by asking about dropshipping. Ask about wholesale opportunities.
If they already sell the products themselves online then they are far more likely to offer you a dropshipping option.
Keep an eye on trends and when new product types start trending there are often a few local manufacturers that jump on the bandwagon.
One great example was when the so-called ‘waterfall table’ and resin tables became popular.
There are dozens of independent manufacturers that make this type of table and furniture – many of them without a proper online sales channel.
Many of them would be very keen on dropshipping.
If you think in terms of what smaller and more independent manufacturers can make then you will start to get a sense of what sort of companies you can approach and reach out to.
Furniture, jewelry and clothing are all great options. Products that won’t make sense to dropship from China are also gold
Food items, bulky/heavy items, CBD products and supplements are all great options and there are plenty of leads to follow if you want to find suppliers to dropship these sorts of products.
2. Wholesalers and Wholesale Directories
Most people who are looking to find suppliers for drop shipping from the USA will find various directories and directory services.
Some are paid, some are free and it tends to be a mixed bag.
There is a big difference between wholesale and drop shipping and many wholesalers would want to hook you in.
As dropshippers we are not interested in wholesale – or at least not until we can start pushing some decent volume.
You want to make sure that whoever you work with are just as happy to ship one order for you as they would be to ship 100.
Most of the various online directories tend to overlap. The paid ones are not necessarily better and as you will see many of the paid ones charge for related services.
This means you can use most of them for free to find suppliers for dropshipping and most of them are in the USA and the EU.
Salehoo is one of the longest running directories of wholesale suppliers. It has seen many ups and downs but somehow survived and is today probably better than ever before.
My very first dropshipping store back in 2014 I managed to find a great supplier through Salehoo.
In saying that, there are a lot of very saturated suppliers and as the ‘go to’ source for many online sellers, the really good products and suppliers tend to be quite saturated.
This is less of an issue for Shopify stores since you are adding your own label and your own brand to the store. If you sell on Ebay or Amazon though it certainly is an issue.
Salehoo has some really cool features I like. They now offer an extensive list of curated suppliers from Aliexpress.
These are high quality and REAL AliExpress suppliers that you can trust. This alone can save you hours of work in finding them and save you the rouble of trail and error in dealing with bad actors.
⁃ Inventory Source
Inventory Source is by far the best option to find suppliers for drop shipping from the USA, Canada and even some EU countries.
The best part about inventory source is that you can access the entire directory for free. It has many powerful search filters that you can use to narrow down your searches.
Inventory Source is actually a dropship automation software and this is where they charge and make their money.
Very much like Oberlo for Shopify and Aliexpress, you can automate your dropshipping orders to any of their 240+ integrated dropshipping suppliers.
This equates to thousands of products in some of the best niches – including pet supplies, supplements and hunting/hiking gear.
This will cost you at least $99/month but you do not need that. You can browse the entire directory and even get all the details of every drop ship supplier with a free account.
I suggest that this is where you start looking as they truly have some amazing drop shipping suppliers.
⁃ Spark Shipping
Spark Shipping is similar to Inventory Source but they are more focussed on bigger brand businesses and offer enterprise level solutions for drop shipping.
With Spark Shipping you can integrate with your own suppliers, set up order routing and do all sorts of inventory syncing to streamline larger scale businesses.
This may not be needed for most smaller scale drop shippers but you do not need their @249/month solution in order to use them to find suppliers for drop shipping.
If you go to https://sparkshipping.com/integrations you can see a complete list of all their integrations with dropshipping suppliers.
They don’t offer you the same level of free information as Inventory Source but it is still plenty to help you find suppliers for drop shipping from the USA.
Esources is a directory very similar to Inventory Source but it is UK based. This means that the majority of the wholesalers and dropshippers listed here will be for the UK and EU market.
With the UK breaking away from the EU with Brexit, the opportunities to dropship to the rest of Europe from the UK is still unclear.
This is a great resource though. Dropshipping in Europe still has a lot of opportunity and since most people focus only on the US market this is well worth looking into.
A free account will allow you to browse the directory and get basic information regarding all the suppliers.
⁃ Wholesale Searches
I’ve already covered this in part but finding wholesale suppliers manually requires a lot of time and effort.
It can all start with a simple Google search. Simply search Your Niche + Wholesale Supplier and you will get a lot of leads that you can follow up with.
This does not mean that these wholesale suppliers will dropship for you but it can at least give you a sniff. You will have to contact each and every one. Pick up the phone – talk to them and test the waters to see if they are willing to dropship.
I’ve found that there are many wholesale suppliers that actually offer drop shipping without even mentioning it on their website.
Since wholesale suppliers tend to serve customers across the country they all have shipping systems in place.
There’s another great resource that’s been doing the rounds in online discussions and Facebook groups.
There’s a course called The Wholesale Formula which has nothing to do with dropshipping (and I am not endorsing it) and they release 2 GREAT PDF’s where they list and recommend wholesale resources.
Here’s the links to the 2 guides (you can also find it via a Google search):
3. Dropshipping Apps
I call these dropshipping apps but in reality they are just aggregators that source from many of the dropshippers you will find through directories.
What makes it particularly good is the fact that these apps work very much like Oberlo does with Aliexpress.
It allows you to easily add to products to your store and automates much of the order process.
Since these apps focus exclusively (almost) on products that can be shipped from the USA (or the EU in some cases) it tends to have much smaller catalogs than a CJ Dropshipping or an Eprolo.
It does all ship from the USA though and the average shipping times range from 3 days to 8 days – with no Chinese shipping labels!
One thing I will for all USA based suppliers is that there is a lot of competition for these products. Because there is a such a limited number of suppliers that drop ship, the really good products tend to be quite saturated.
Nonetheless, it gives you a lot of opportunity and there are 3 main Shopify apps that I like most.
Spocket was one of the first and to be honest when they first started it was quite bad. They had very limited products, fairly boring products and some very over priced products that made it nearly impossible to drop ship.
Needless to say the market has changed and they have really grow significantly with many more wholesalers and many more products to drop ship from the USA.
The catch is that the app is not free. If you really want to access all their products it will be at least $49 per month.
The 2 week free trial will give you enough to see if there’s anything that is worth pursuing.
If you are looking to find suppliers for drop shipping branded products then look no further. With Shopoo, you can sell many brands like Gucci and even a lot of the Marvel stuff.
Needless to say, there are a lot of opportunities but also a lot of pitfalls in doing this. There are issues with marketing and advertising that comes with selling these big name brands.
Even if you look past their branded stuff, there are some interesting products. Some of it overlaps with Spocket but they still have a decent sized catalogue.
Shopoo is also not free. You can get it for $24 per month on their annual plan or $49 per month on a monthly plan.
The 2 week free trial will give you enough to see if there’s anything that is worth pursuing.
Modalyst offers both USA suppliers as well as vetted Aliexpress products. Lets just ignore everything Aliexpress and focus on the rest.
Like Shopoo they also have a number of big name brands and it does overlap with the previous two apps since they all draw from similar databases.
Modalyst is particularly good if you want to dropship CBD products and accessories. This is a hard product category to get into unless you have local suppliers and here you will find plenty.
Modalyst is also not free and their plans start from $35 per month. You can browse around for free but will need a plan to start selling.
4. Chinese Drop Shippers in the USA
I wanted to separate this out to distinguish between Chinese suppliers and Chinese suppliers in the USA.
There are many Aliexpress suppliers that actually sell from warehouses in the USA.
The challenge is that many of them are dropshippers so you have to be careful and find true suppliers that are legitimately selling their own stock from their USA warehouse.
You can do this on Aliexpress by setting your search filter. Once you find a supplier you HAVE TO contact them and start a conversation.
Ask them if they are selling their own stock and make double sure they actually ship from their USA warehouse.
Ask for details like the warehouse address and ask for pictures of the warehouse and for the stock of the products you intend to sell.
It may sound excessive but it is often the only way to cut through the lies.
A much more reliable way to find Chines suppliers for drop shipping from the USA is with CJ Dropshipping.
They are quite transparent with showing you which products they have in their USA warehouse. They are also quite good with updating you on how much stock they have available in the USA.
Since they do frequent large shipments to the USA this can be a fantastic option.
The only downside is that the shipping costs for products from their USA warehouse is significantly higher (through the USPS)
5. Walmart, Amazon, Etsy and Ebay
If you are dropshipping you could fulfill orders from virtually anywhere. I’ve certainly done my fair share of scrambling to fulfill orders when the sh*# hit the fan with Aliexpress.
It doesn’t take long to find almost any Aliexpress product on either Amazon or Ebay. Sellers on these 2 platforms almost always source their products from Alibaba and manyu of them are also dropshippers.
Amazon and Ebay are not the only sources though. Wayfair is one of the biggest online stores and they started as a dropshipper.
They have since started warehousing their own products and are shipping from the USA for many products.
While you can easily fulfill a few order from these online stores, it is rarely a good long term strategy.
Amazon for one does not like it if you start placing dozens of orders a day that all ship to different addresses. Ebay seems to be okay with it and Walmart is certainly okay with it (within limits).
None of them are reliable though because they are not true suppliers. You are engaging in arbitrage – a strategy that is as old as commerce itself.
It is a great strategy to test certain products while still using USA based shipping.
For this strategy, the best way is to turn your attention to Etsy. Etsy sellers tend to be good at making products but terrible at selling them.
There are so many amazing handmade products to be found on Etsy. Many of them will forever be doomed to only selling a few hundred because there’s not enough good marketing behind it.
This is where you come in.
It is not that hard to strike a deal with Etsy sellers to dropship for you. You should eventually bypass Etsy altogether but it is a great way to find amazing products by passionate people who love to MAKE stuff but who tends to hate selling it.
They all want to sell more and make more money and if you step in and strike deal with them to use them as your supplier for drop shipping their products most of them will be keen.
Finding Drop Shipping Suppliers – Conclusion
If you are already dropshipping from Aliexpress and you are starting to see success then swapping over to dedicated dropshipping companies like CJ, Eprolo of Zendrop is the easiest transition.
It will allow you to keep selling what you are already selling but get better quality control and faster shipping.
Another reason why I really like this option is because you can still scale up from there as you grow. CJ Dropshipping allows you to bulk ship products to their USA warehouse.
From there they can fulfill your orders locally which means fast shipping and minimal interruptions in your business.
While Aliexpress and the Chinese dropshipping suppliers offer a great variety of products at really good prices, it is not necessarily the best option from a business point of view.
USA suppliers open up a lot of new doors. You can now dropship products that would not make sense or that are not allowed from China.
Food items, CBD products and many bulky or heavy products become possible when you have suppliers in the USA.
In general you profit margins will be much lower with USA based suppliers. You will need a different approach than the standard Aliexpress approach of selling $30 to $50 products with a 300% markup.
You will most likely need $100 plus products with a 30% to 50% markup. Instead of selling eye lashes you will probably need to sell pool tables or welding masks.
What I like most about sourcing dropshipping suppliers in the USA is that you step out of the Aliexpress race to the bottom where everybody is selling the same kind of sh%^ products.
You will find products that you probably never even thought about. You can truly start a unique drop shipping business this way – one where you actually build an asset instead of a cash machine that runs dry when your Chinese supplier screws you over.
Etsy is yet another amazing and very under-used source for finding drop shipping suppliers. Etsy sellers are already fulfilling orders for the products they make/sell themselves.
Many of them sell only a handful of products per month and if you approach them correctly they would be more than happy to dropship for you.
I love Etsy products because they are handmade, unique and usually very high quality products. Very few dropshippers would ever use Etsy as a source for finding dropshipping suppliers and this can give you an edge.