As a parent it is very possible that you, like the Mellow household, have already made the switch from the ‘big four’ supermarkets to the discounters Aldi and Lidl. But what about the wholesaler? For the past couple of years we've been buying standard household cleaning products, fresh meat and cupboard staples from one of our two big local wholesale retailers. Also known as 'cash and carries', wholesalers are no longer exclusive to small businesses. When you have a family to feed, clothe and furnish - they do help you save money.
By far my biggest household cost-savings come from buying home cleaning products such as cleaning fluid and fabric softener in bulk from Cash and Carries. The largest of note is Costco but with only 27 UK stores they are yet to become a regular haunt for most families. Essentially a modern warehouse (imagine Ikea but with baked beans and TV sets), Costco sells pretty much everything. You can also find more traditional ‘cash and carry’s’ like Bookers but you are currently unable to shop with them unless you hold a business membership card, time will tell if they change policy. Thankfully, I do hold a business card for my local Makro and my local Chinese Cash and Carry (where I buy yummy food in vast quantities).
|We always buy cleaning products in bulk to save LOTS of cash|
So, what’s the difference between a customer wholesaler like Costco and a local hypermarket or discounter? The biggest difference is size. The packs are MASSIVE - they will last you ages, so long as you have the storage space for it. In our house we tend to find that some products disappear in rapid time such as toilet rolls, crisps and pasta - so it’s just as well that the packs are so big. We tend to store loo rolls, big cases of tinned food and bottles of cleaning products in our garage.
When it comes to wholesale clothes, there a number of trading sites where you can purchase big name brands at lower prices, a notable one is ‘The Trader’ but buying through this channel is still unusual for individuals rather than trade. Some of the bigger wholesalers like Makro and Costco do stock clothing but it is normally for uniforms and trade rather than families.
The savings on a big ticket items like furniture can be considerable at a wholesaler. We've bought office furniture such as storage boxes and bookcases for use in the girls' playroom but, like traditional cash and carry’s, it is still a little unusual to buy through this route and not always cost-effective because they are very much tailored to business. Some retailers like Julian Bowen only sell to the trade but you can search for stockists online so you know where to hunt for a bargain. Another large household purchase is bedding and products for the bedroom. At direct sale retailers like Bedstar you can make significant savings. Bedstar are one of the stockists of Julian Bowen furniture and you can buy direct from a business awarded the best UK furniture wholesaler three times on the trot.
|Addis sit n store - Cash and Carry Storage Goodness! We're just about to buy another|
Many businesses have a traditional wholesale arm and a customer arm and increasingly the margins between these are getting blurred. Even, Amazon is part wholesaler with its awesome and eclectic range of goods and its interactive marketplace. The internet is a great way of cutting out the middle men as the retailers don’t have to pay for the logistics, storing and lighting of stock and all the other associated costs; so if you buy in bulk then those cost savings are passed onto you. Baby goods such as baby wipes, nappy sanitiser and stairgates are good things to look out for on online wholesalers - once again, as long as you have the space to store 6 months worth of baby wipes, there are big savings to be made.
Buying at wholesalers can feel a little daunting at first but if you think of them as just another retailer where you can choose to buy what feels right for you, at a price that makes sense for your family then you can't go wrong. I don't buy everything in bulk. I still shop at Lidl once a week, but I leave the big things to the cash and carry and tend to head there once every few months to stock up for the house.
This post was written in collaboration with Susannah Wang but my wholesale experiences with Costco, Makro and other local wholesalers are ones I'm happy to share.