← Blog

Our Breakdown of Wholesale vs. Retail Pricing

At the heart of every successful business lies a smart pricing strategy—but not all businesses should be pricing their products the same way.

Wholesale and retail pricing represent two very different models created with very different goals in mind. And in this Upscribe article, we’ll be unpacking the similarities and differences between these two pricing models.

Let’s get started.

Wholesale Pricing vs. Retail Pricing: Overview

Wholesale and retail are entirely different beasts.

Wholesale pricing is what retailers pay when they buy a product from the manufacturer (usually in bulk). Retail pricing is what customers pay when they buy that same product from the retailer (usually in a much lower quantity).

As any Costco shopper will tell you, buying in bulk is cheaper—manufacturers often accept lower perunit profits to increase total spendingOn the other hand, retailers try to set prices that maximize both conversions and per-unit profits since customers aren’t purchasing much volume.

Imagine it costs a manufacturer $5 to produce a t-shirt. They charge a retailer $6 per t-shirt for orders of 300 or more to encourage large orders—this is wholesale pricing. The retailer then sells individual t-shirts to customers for $10 to earn a 40% profit—this is retail pricing.

What Is Wholesale Pricing?

As we briefly covered above, wholesale pricing is the price a manufacturer charges retailers for bulk orders.

Wholesale prices are almost always lower than retail prices—there are two main reasons for this. Since wholesalers are trying to move large volumes, they often discount their prices to encourage retailers to purchase more. Plus, manufacturers can reduce overhead costs like production time, packaging, and delivery with larger orders.

Example of Wholesale Pricing

Alibaba is an excellent example of a wholesale marketplace. Manufacturers use Alibaba to connect with retailers, who purchase in bulk at a discounted wholesale price and resell them at a profit.

The listing above is advertising water bottles. If you buy 200 to 1,999 units, the price is $2.75 per unit. If you increase the volume of your order to 200,000+, the price drops to $2.05 per unit—increasing the profit you can earn per sale as a retailer.

How do you set a wholesale price? There are a few different methods.

  1. Figure out your base cost. This is the cost of manufacturing a product plus labor and overhead.
  2. Determine your desired margin. This is the percentage of profit you want to make on each sale. The lower your margin, the
  3. Add expenses. Things shipping[a], taxes, and duties that are incurred when selling products. While doing this, determine how much you save by selling in bulk.
  4. Set your prices accordingly. Use the variable bulk expenses you calculated to set your wholesale prices. Don’t forget to set MOQs and bulk discounts to encourage larger orders.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wholesale Pricing

Let’s explore the upsides and downsides of wholesale pricing to help you navigate the world of cost-efficient bulk purchasing.


  • Increased Sales Volume: By sourcing products at lower per-unit costs through wholesale pricing, you can offer competitive prices to their customers. When your products are attractively priced, you’re more likely to entice customers and see higher quantities sold.
  • Consistent Revenue: Wholesale pricing provides a steady supply of products.  With a reliable supply chain, you can avoid stockouts that might disappoint potential buyers and impact your revenue.
  • Wider Market Reach: Since wholesalers often offer a diverse array of products, you can diversify your inventory, reach more potential customers, and expand your market reach.
  • Reduced Marketing and Production Costs: Lower acquisition costs through wholesale pricing translate into more favorable profit margins.


  • Price Point Constraints: Wholesale pricing often involves selling products at a lower price per unit, limiting your ability to set higher retail prices. This pricing constraint might make it challenging to target high-end markets or offer premium products.
  • Lower Profit Margins: Lower per-unit costs with wholesale pricing can lead to thinner profit margins compared to retail pricing models.
  • Dependence on a Few Large Customers: Many wholesalers have a small number of large customers, such as retail chains. If one of these major customers experiences economic challenges or decides to change suppliers, it can substantially impact your business.

What Is Retail Pricing?

Retail pricing is the heartbeat of your Shopify business. The strategy defines the price at which you present products to your customers, and it’s a vital component of your overall business success.

At its core, retail pricing involves setting a price for a product that covers the cost of acquiring or manufacturing the product and includes a markup to generate a profit. This markup is what sets the retail price higher than the base cost.

Example of Retail Pricing

Earlier, we looked at an example of wholesale pricing for water bottles on Alibaba. Below is an example of an Amazon retailer selling a similar (possibly identical) product at a massive retail markup.

Assuming this retailer bought in bulk, one bottle may have cost them as little as $2.05 to buy. So, with a retail price of $25.68 per bottle, they’re potentially making a profit of more than 1,152% with every sale.

Obviously, there’s a bit of speculation here, but that’s the gist of retail pricing. It enables you to profit from a product by charging your customers more than you paid. How much more? There are a few different approaches to answer that question:

  • Cost-Plus Pricing: This is the simplest way to set a retail price and involves simply adding some extra money (the “plus”) to cover your costs.
  • Competition-Based Pricing: Using this method, you figure out what other retailers charge for similar products and adjust accordingly using this method.
  • Value-Based Pricing: With this approach, you set prices based on what people will actually pay for the product. This is based on quality, brand, and market demand.
  • Penetration Pricing: This is a pricing strategy where you initially lower the price of your product to attract customers and gain market share. Once you have a customer base, you can raise prices slowly over time.
  • Subscription Pricing: Subscription pricing can be a great way to make money on a recurring basis. Using a subscription commerce platform like Upscribe, you can set up a subscription plan with different tiers or offer discounts on multiple products.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Retail Pricing


  • Wide Variety of Goods Sold: With retail pricing, you can curate a diverse range of products in your Shopify store. You can offer goods spanning various categories and appeal to a broad audience with differing tastes and preferences.
  • Lower Investment Costs: Retail pricing doesn’t require purchasing products in large quantities, as is often the case with wholesale pricing. This means you can start your Shopify business with lower upfront investment costs.
  • High-Profit Margins: Retail pricing allows for more substantial profit margins than wholesale pricing. Since you’re setting prices that cover both the cost of the product and your desired profit, you have more control over your margins. By effectively managing your pricing strategy, you can achieve higher profitability.
  • Greater Control Over Pricing: You have greater control over setting prices with retail pricing. You can adjust prices based on trends and seasonal variations, making adapting to evolving market conditions easier.


  • Greater Marketing Costs: When adopting wholesale pricing, you may face higher marketing costs to promote your products effectively. This is because you have to invest more in marketing and advertising to stand out from the competition, as various retailers often sell wholesale products.
  • Higher Market Competition: The wholesale market is highly competitive, with numerous retailers vying for the same products from wholesalers. This competition can lead to lower profit margins as you’re often forced to set prices competitively.
  • Higher Inventory Costs: Wholesale pricing typically involves purchasing products in larger quantities. While this can lead to cost savings per unit, it can also increase overall inventory costs. Maintaining a significant inventory can be capital-intensive, tying up your funds and potentially reducing financial flexibility.

Key Differences Between Wholesale and Retail Pricing

In this section, we’ll highlight the key differences between wholesale and retail pricing, helping Shopify business owners make informed pricing decisions for their e-commerce ventures.

Here’s a quick overview:


Wholesale Pricing

Retail Pricing

Customer Base        

Businesses and bulk buyers        

End consumers and individual buyers

Quantity of Goods        

Purchased in bulk with MOQs        

Smaller quantities, often no MOQ

Pricing Structure        

Lower per-unit cost, bulk discounts        

Markups on the base cost

Market Positioning        

B2B, supply chain-focused        

B2C, consumer-facing

Margins and Profits        

Lower per-unit margins, higher volume        

Higher per-unit margins, lower volume

Sales Strategy        

Large transactions, relationships        

Individual sales, broad reach

Product Customization        

Limited customization for bulk buyers        

Individualized for end consumers

Now, let’s dive into the details.

1. Customer Base

Wholesale pricing primarily targets businesses and bulk buyers. Wholesalers sell products in large quantities to other businesses, often including:

  • Retailers
  • Distributors
  • Foodservice establishments
  • Boutiques

These customers purchase products in bulk to stock their stores or fulfill their own business needs.

Retail pricing is geared toward individual buyers, while wholesale pricing is geared toward businesses purchasing bulk products. Retailers sell products in smaller quantities directly to consumers.

2. Quantity of Goods

Wholesale pricing involves the purchase of goods in bulk. Customers who buy through wholesale pricing often need to meet minimum order quantities (MOQs). MOQs are set by wholesalers to ensure that orders are substantial and cost-effective. Purchasing goods in large quantities through wholesale pricing allows businesses to benefit from lower per-unit costs.

Retail pricing typically involves the sale of goods in smaller quantities. Unlike wholesale, there are often no strict Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) for retail customers. Retailers directly sell products individually or in small quantities to end consumers, making them more accessible for everyday shoppers.

3. Pricing Structure

The pricing structure for wholesale is typically based on lower per-unit costs and bulk discounts. Wholesalers offer products to businesses and bulk buyers at a reduced price per item, particularly when they purchase larger quantities.

Meanwhile, retailers set their prices by adding a markup to the product’s base cost. This markup is designed to cover operating expenses, including rent, staff wages, and marketing, and to generate a profit.

4. Market Positioning

Wholesale pricing is positioned within the B2B (business-to-business) market. It’s a crucial component in the supply chain, connecting manufacturers or wholesalers with other businesses. The primary focus of wholesale pricing is to facilitate efficient bulk transactions between suppliers and retailers.

Retail pricing is situated in the B2C (business-to-consumer) market. It targets end consumers and individual buyers. Retailers sell products in smaller quantities directly to consumers for personal use.

5. Margins and Profits

Wholesale pricing is a strategy that involves offering products at a reduced cost to businesses and bulk buyers to facilitate high-volume sales. This means that the per-unit margins are typically lower, as wholesalers are willing to sacrifice some profit on each item to increase sales volume.

Retail pricing is a pricing strategy used by retailers to make a profit. This involves adding a markup to the product’s base cost to cover operational expenses and generate a profit. Since retailers usually sell in smaller quantities, they need to rely on higher per-item margins to sustain their business.

6. Sales Strategy

The sales strategy for wholesale pricing focuses on building and nurturing long-term relationships with other businesses. Their main sales differentiators are reliability, price, and customer service.

On the other hand, retailers aim to reach and attract a diverse range of end consumers. The sales strategy often involves nurturing long-term relationships, too—the difference is that retailers engage with a much more diverse audience. Retailers often employ tactics like coupons and discounts, loyalty programs, and subscriptions to attract and retain customers.

Are you considering offering subscriptions on your Shopify store?

Upscribe offers powerful tools to drive subscription growth, improve customer satisfaction, and simplify data-driven decisions. With everything from self-service customer portals to automated billing and payments, Upscribe makes setting up and managing a successful subscription business easy.

Shopify merchants who partner with Upscribe experience an annual growth rate of 80%—all while saving time and resources.

7. Product Customization

Wholesalers typically offer a standardized range of products. These products are produced in bulk and are intended for businesses and other resellers to purchase in large quantities. While some degree of customization may be available for bulk orders, it’s generally not a primary focus for wholesalers.

Retailers may carry various products tailored to individual consumers’ preferences. Retailers can offer customized options, personalized services, and a diverse selection to cater to their consumers’ needs and desires.


Wholesale pricing, tailored for business-to-business transactions and bulk buyers, offers cost efficiency and the potential for higher sales volume. In contrast, retail pricing targets individual consumers, allowing for higher per-unit margins and personalized customer experiences.

As you navigate the intricacies of pricing in the e-commerce world, one valuable tool to consider is UpscribeOur subscription solution helps you turn one-time customers into loyal, repeat purchasersdriving growth and increasing profitability.

Schedule a demo and see what Upscribe can do.