How Do Stores Get New Clothes

Clothing styles frequently change with the trends and the seasons, so it’s reasonable to wonder where stores are getting their clothing and how they can keep up with changing inventory and demand. So, how do stores get new clothes? 

Clothes are purchased wholesale from manufacturers and resold at a marked-up price in-store. In the case of small businesses, most will still purchase wholesale though some may design or curate their clothing picks from other sources to sell for a profit online or in-store. 

Continue reading to learn more about how retailers get their inventory. 

Where do stores get their clothes? 

Since most retailers don’t create their own clothes, the supply must come from an external source. There are many different avenues stores can go through to get their merchandise, and this usually is affected by how widespread the retailer is and how much merchandise needs to be brought on at once. 


Purchasing from wholesalers is more common with large businesses since buying in bulk is cheaper. Buying in bulk makes it easier to turn a larger profit on the merchandise, therefore adding more money to the business to pay for overhead costs such as rent and payroll and reinvesting the money in getting more merchandise.


Buying directly from manufacturers is similar to purchasing wholesale, though prices may be lower since the products are being made and distributed by the same company. This route eliminates the intermediaries in the equation, but it’s only sometimes an option for many companies. 

Other Distributors

Some apparel companies utilize online or paper catalogs to look at styles they’d want to purchase to sell in-store. These catalogs typically require a subscription to shop, and like wholesalers, the products can be purchased in bulk. 

Small, local chains or individual stores may have more curated styles that may not be considered “new” but are high-quality thrift items. For example, many “vintage” shops source their merchandise by going to thrift stores, yard sales, or other second-hand methods, to create their specialty feel in their store. 

Even more infrequently are small businesses, such as Etsy shops, that will design, manufacture and sell clothing items they have made themselves. Often these items will be more expensive and take longer to get to the consumer, but the quality and craftsmanship make these products worthwhile. 

How does clothing get distributed? 

The clothing world requires global contribution. Usually, clothing manufacturers are located overseas because labor and textiles are often cheaper; this is also why clothes made in America are more expensive, but they also tend to be of higher quality. 

When orders are placed, either for wholesale or by an individual through a store’s online website, the product has to go through shipping and processing, often going overseas, to fulfill the order. These factors play into the overall cost of the product once it reaches the consumer. 

For eco-conscious shoppers, the chain of distribution can be a make-or-break factor in their decision to shop with a particular retailer. This movement can affect the global supply and distribution of clothing as manufacturing plants may have to change their practices to meet standards set by their buyers. 

What do stores do with clothes that don’t sell? 

While there are many metrics stores will use to order according to the expected demand to minimize unsellable clothes or waste, the reality is that sometimes, things don’t sell. 

When there’s too much inventory, or it’s evident that these styles aren’t going to sell (or sometimes both), stores will put these items on sale. For example, Target will mark a price down to 70% off before eventually getting rid of these clothes through donations or by selling the excess to discount stores. 

Unfortunately, only some businesses are so generous in giving discounts or selling to discount stores. It’s common for luxury retailers to destroy their merchandise instead of donating or heavily discounting their products to maintain the brand’s image. 

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to source products that suit small businesses and national companies. New styles that are regularly on-trend are important to keeping customer interest and generating revenue, so getting old styles out and new ones in are one of the most pressing aspects of the retail clothing business.

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