Wholesaling or distributing is the sale of goods or merchandise to retailers; to industrial, commercial, institutional, or other professional business users; or to other wholesalers (wholesale businesses) and related subordinated services.[1] In general, it is the sale of goods to anyone other than a standard consumer.

According to the United Nations Statistics Division, wholesale is the resale (sale without transformation) of new and used goods to retailers, to industrial, commercial, institutional or professional users, or to other wholesalers, or involves acting as an agent or broker in buying merchandise for, or selling merchandise to, such persons or companies. Wholesalers frequently physically assemble, sort and grade goods in large lots, break bulk, repack and redistribute in smaller lots.[2] While wholesalers of most products usually operate from independent premises, wholesale marketing for foodstuffs can take place at specific wholesale markets where all traders are congregated.

Traditionally, wholesalers were closer to the markets they supplied than the source from which they got the products.[3] However, with the advent of the internet and e-procurement there are an increasing number of wholesalers located nearer to the manufacturers in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.

In the banking industry "wholesale" usually refers to wholesale banking, providing tailored services to large customers, in contrast with retail banking, providing standardized services to large numbers of smaller customers.


Often, in the United States, wholesalers are not required to charge their buyers sales tax, if the buyer has a resale license in the state the wholesaler is located. Out of state buyers are not charged sale tax by wholesalers. [4]

Direct selling

The alternative to selling wholesale to distributors or retailers is to sell retail[5] either through company-owned stores or online. Advantages include receiving a larger slice of the price paid by the consumer; disadvantages include difficulty in reaching consumers.[6]

Top wholesalers in U.S

Top U.S wholesalers according to csnews report in 2012.[7]

Ranking 2012Company/ HeadquartersLatest FY (M$)locations serveddeliveries per week% of sales to chain stores% of sales to Indep.# of warehousesWarehouses (thousands Sq. feet)full employeesales per Sq. foot (thousands $)sales per employee (thousands $)sales per location (thousands $)sales per delivery ($)
1McLane Co.27,30039269486829642010464907926093007695561
2Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc.8,1153000050502850001623271
3Eby-Brown Co4,50021000703072250220020002045214
4H.T. Hackney Co4,0002000028200
5GSC Enterprises Inc.1300800065006832616761315776989163200
6Farner-Bocken Co.12005050145093026671290
7Harold Levinson Associates Inc.1200150001500010901550475218225268080
8Imperial/Harrison Super regional1,025295031206436437944727042293347329
9Amcon Distributing Co.1004500066011671201
10S. Abraham & Sons Inc.939361430795842244047721341969260306
11Consumer Product Distributors inc.926369541854456430057430871613251221
12Chambers & Owen Inc.7655050126530028872550
13Liberty USA Inc.700180016507030115025046672800389424
14Garber Bros. Inc.695240031006040120024634752825290244
15J.T. Davenport & Sons Inc.6002000703022112844300
16Cooper Booth Wholesale Co.540175011752080111018749092888309460
17Atlantic Dominion Distributors486210016006535218012027004050231304
18Tripifoods Inc.45827502970928125021018322181167154
19Stephenson Wholesale Co. Inc.4053500453335652022922005138711689
20Pine State Trading Co.400500055455246162680
21Harbor Wholesale Grocery Inc.391250017004060230026513031475156230
22Southco Distributing Co.343140022004555122518015241906245156
23Richmond-Master Distributors Inc.3001400810307052101429214370
24Thomas & Howard Co. Inc.2501500230047533300300833833167109
25Allen Brothers Wholesale Dist. Inc.230135893033671657235383194169247

See also


  1. "WTO – accession : Protocols of accession for new members since 1995, including commitments in goods and services". www.wto.org. Archived from the original on 4 March 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  2. "United Nations Statistics Division – Classifications Registry". unstats.un.org. Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  3. Chandler, A. D. (1994). Scale and scope The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. p. 29.
  4. Michael Gravette, wholesaler for 32 years.
  5. "Als Lieferant mitmachen" (in German). eu-lieferanten.de. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  6. Ian Mount (March 6, 2013). "Clothing Companies Trying to Find More Direct Paths to Customers". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 7, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
  7. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2014-01-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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