Questions to ask a new supplier

Owning your own business, or managing one, includes job duties such as dealing with new suppliers when old ones close shop, continually give bad service or when you add a new product. Before choosing which supplier to work with, there are important questions you must ask to optimise the relationship between your business and the new supplier.

Quality and Quantity

Before contracting with a new supplier, ask for a sample or demonstration of the product. Request a catalogue or brochure of the products. Ask if the new supplier carries the product as part of its regular line or if it is a seasonal item. Another question to ask is how often the new supplier must put an item on back-order. Find out how long back-orders usually take. Along with your business, also find out what other companies in the area work with the supplier.

Pricing and Discounts

Remember that the supplier's price increase affects your bottom line. Ask new suppliers how often their prices increase and when their last price increase took place. If it has been a few years, expect a price increase to occur in the not-to-distant future and plan accordingly. To offset a price increase, ask if there are discounts on large or bulk orders. Some suppliers carry hot sellers in bulk to keep prices low. Also inquire about mix-and-match policies for similar items or types of items. For instance, a T-shirt company may require a minimum order of £130 from a broad selection of merchandise, while a toy manufacturer may require you to purchase an entire case of one type of toy. Also ask about invoicing and payment due dates. Some companies require payment prior to shipping; others use a 30-day invoice system. A few collect payment upon delivery.

Refunds, Returns and Buy-Backs

Not every product is created equal, and some fail to pass the customer's seal of approval. Ask the new supplier how it handles returns and refunds on damaged or malfunctioning products. Certain companies offer a buy-back policy or an exchange, meaning if the merchandise you ordered does not sell, the supplier will buy it back or exchange it for another product. These vendor policies keep merchandise moving in your store.


Always ask about delivery times and shipping methods. Each supplier is different and may use regular mail, delivery companies or its own delivery trucks. It is important to know how and when an item is shipped so you can advertise the new product and make room for the items. Make it clear that you want to know how long it takes to receive the item from the time it leaves the warehouse. It can be especially frustrating to order 200 items for a holiday, only to receive them two days after the event.

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About the Author

Julie Richards is a freelance writer from Ohio. She has been writing poetry and short stories for over 30 years, and published a variety of e-books and articles on gardening, small business and farming. She is currently enrolled at Kent State University completing her bachelor's degree in English.