Wholesale Buying in the UK - Registration

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Don’t get stressed out about registering as a customer Stockhound has some useful tips on the subject. There are two types of registration these days. Online registration and ‘in person’ registration.

With more and more wholesalers wanting to do business online the last few years has seen a streamlining of the registration processes. This move has also resulted from the recognition that the internet and eBay in particular has led to a boom in the number of part-time smaller volume retailers. Their websites and their advertisements in wholesaling magazines frequently list ‘eBayers’ as one of their customer groups.

Registering online

In all likelihood you will only ever need to register online with your chosen wholesalers rather than in person. You fill in the online form, click submit and then wait.

The online form will usually include a company name field as well as one for VAT. Whilst the company name field is not mandatory I would recommend that you enter a trading name.

A trading name is a good idea from many angles. As well as setting you apart from a non-trade buyer it will be useful when you are keeping your books. If you enter a company name this will go on to be shown on your invoices. This will be much better when you do your bookkeeping. It will also be useful should you do any ‘in person’ registrations as one of the accepted ‘proofs of trade’ is an invoice showing the company name.

We’re not talking limited company here, though that’s something you may consider in the future, this is simply a trading name. If you are John Smith and you sell watches you could trade as JS Watches. You could match it up with your eBay username or your domain name, if you have one.

You will also be asked for your VAT registration number though once again this is highly unlikely to be a mandatory field. Don’t worry if you are not registered most online traders are not. At the time of writing your turnover needs to be above £61,000 to require registration. It’s a little more complicated than that so it may be worthwhile to visit the HMRC website and familiarise yourself with the full details. After all if it is your goal to replace a full time income with profit from your new venture you will almost certainly need to exceed that level of turnover. Don’t forget that’s a turnover figure and may only equate to £10k-£12k in actual profit.

Other fields on the online registration forms are pretty obvious and self explanatory, name, address, phone number, email etc. etc. and you will probably be asked to identify what type of trader you are.

Some registration processes are set up to pend and review each submission but the speed at which some work suggests to me that some are fully automated. You will receive a confirmation email showing your username and password. Then your ready to go shopping! If your password is not one you have chosen for yourself and hence not memorable it is a good idea to change it straight away to one that is. Otherwise you will be forever searching for that registration email.

Registering in Person

Your own circumstances will dictate whether or not you or going to order all your goods online or whether you will be visiting your suppliers in person. I would say that, if you can, try to visit some of your wholesalers some of the time. They can give invaluable advice and you could save on the delivery costs (though remember this needs to be set against your own fuel costs).

When you go through the door of a wholesaler for the first time, one of two things will happen. Staff at the wholesaler will try to ascertain that you are a trade buyer in an informal way buy asking you where or how you sell or how you came to here about them. Or they will simply ask if you have registered and if not they will give you the necessary form. I mentioned at the start of this guide that in the Nineties I was Publisher of a trade magazine called The Trader such was it’s status at that time that many buyers would just roll up a copy in their hand when they stepped into a wholesalers for the first time. It was like an unspoken Masonic sign that communicated that you were ‘in the know’ and ‘in the trade’. Whether this is still the case I wouldn’t know as some time has since past.

Anyway, let’s assume you have been handed a registration form. You may be asked for proof that you are a Trader. Two items are particularly useful here. Firstly, what about a business card? A business card attached to the form will usually be accepted as proof. Getting a business card has never been easier. We use Vista Print. You design you business card online and they arrive in the post a few days later. They are even offering 250 free business cards at the moment you just pay the post and packing. I can recommend them as I have used the service myself. This link will take you straight to the right page.

Secondly, I go back to my point about using a trading name. If you place an order online using your trading name you will receive an invoice and/or a delivery note showing this ‘Company’ name. This invoice is also usually accepted as proof that you are a trader. So you fill out the registration form and attach your business card or a copy of your previous invoice (or preferably both) and hand it back with confidence.

Without wishing to state the obvious – I would not recommend walking in and saying ‘do you do samples’, this will set alarm bells ringing. If you order wholesale quantities of some lines then say that you are unsure of the price another line might reach then in all likelihood they will sell you a single sample of that product provided that your order overall exceeds their minimum order value.

So that’s it you’re registered and ready to go. It really is a much easier process than it was a couple of decades ago. The principal way that wholesalers ensure they are selling to traders rather than the general public is through their minimum order value policy.

Your own Domain?

You don’t have to be planning to open your own website to register a domain. Stockhound uses Go Daddy an american company with extremely competitive prices and a great range of services. You can register your domain for a few pounds and use the domain in your email address rather than something like @yahoo, @hotmail, @btconnect etc etc. ‘admin at js watches’ is going to convey a much more professional image. You can have a simple page on the internet free of any hosting charge as Go Daddy will place some google ads on the page alongside your own content. If you want to go on to launch a website you will need to pay for a hosting plan. Typically £3-£6 per month, once again Go Daddy is very competitive partly because their prices are in dollars and the pound is currently very strong against this currency. One possible draw back is that as they are operating in a different time zone you may not be able to get phone support in the same way as you can with a UK company. Having said that their email support is excellent. If it’s a UK solution you are after Stockhound has also used 123- reg.

Thank you

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