The Difference Between a Wholesaler and a Jobber: Understanding Their Roles in the Supply Chain


The Difference Between a Wholesaler and a Jobber: Understanding Their Roles in the Supply Chain


In the world of commerce, supply chain management plays a crucial role in ensuring that goods reach consumers efficiently and cost-effectively. Two important intermediaries in this process are wholesalers and jobbers. Despite their overlapping functions, they serve different roles in the distribution process. This article will delve into the key distinctions between wholesalers and jobbers, their respective functions, and how they contribute to the supply chain. To provide comprehensive insights, this article draws from various reputable sources, including academic papers, industry reports, and expert opinions.

1. Wholesalers: An Overview

1.1 Definition and Function

A wholesaler, also known as a distributor, is a key intermediary between manufacturers and retailers in the supply chain. Wholesalers purchase goods in large quantities from manufacturers and then sell smaller quantities to retailers at a markup. The primary function of wholesalers is to facilitate the movement of goods from producers to retailers, ensuring a smooth flow of products through the supply chain.

1.2 Role in the Supply Chain

Wholesalers play several essential roles in the supply chain:

Bulk Purchasing: Wholesalers buy goods in large quantities, taking advantage of economies of scale, which allows manufacturers to produce goods at a lower cost and pass on the savings to end consumers.

Storage and Inventory Management: Wholesalers act as a buffer, holding inventory to meet the fluctuating demands of retailers and consumers. They manage inventory levels efficiently, reducing the risk of stockouts for retailers.

Logistics and Distribution: Wholesalers are responsible for organizing the transportation and delivery of goods from manufacturers to retailers, ensuring timely and efficient distribution.

Credit and Financing: Wholesalers may offer credit terms to retailers, allowing them to pay for the goods at a later date, which aids in improving cash flow for retailers.

1.3 Types of Wholesalers

There are several types of wholesalers based on their functions and target markets:

Merchant Wholesalers: These wholesalers take ownership of the products they sell and carry an assortment of goods from various manufacturers.

Agent Wholesalers: Unlike merchant wholesalers, agent wholesalers do not take ownership of the goods but act as intermediaries between manufacturers and retailers, earning a commission on sales.

Specialty Wholesalers: These wholesalers focus on specific product categories or industries, catering to niche markets with unique demands.

1.4 Pros and Cons of Wholesalers


Efficient distribution of goods through the supply chain.
Bulk purchasing leads to cost savings.
Inventory management reduces stockouts and surplus goods.
Credit facilities improve retailer cash flow.
Offers a range of product options to retailers.

Additional markup increases the cost to retailers and consumers.
Some wholesalers may lack transparency in pricing and operations.
Middleman costs might lead to lower profit margins for manufacturers.
2. Jobbers: An Overview

2.1 Definition and Function

A jobber, also known as a broker or middleman, serves as an intermediary between wholesalers and retailers. Unlike wholesalers, jobbers do not take ownership of the products they handle; instead, they facilitate the sale by connecting retailers with wholesalers or manufacturers. Jobbers work on a commission basis, earning a percentage of the sales they generate.

2.2 Role in the Supply Chain

Jobbers serve as a vital link between wholesalers and retailers, playing the following roles:

Facilitating Transactions: Jobbers connect retailers with wholesalers or manufacturers and negotiate terms on behalf of both parties.

Market Expertise: Jobbers possess in-depth knowledge of the market, product trends, and consumer preferences, which aids retailers in making informed purchasing decisions.

Reducing Transaction Costs: By streamlining the buying process, jobbers help retailers save time and effort in dealing directly with wholesalers.

Breaking Bulk: Jobbers allow retailers to purchase smaller quantities of goods, which is beneficial for small retailers with limited storage capacity.

2.3 Pros and Cons of Jobbers


Provide market expertise and knowledge to retailers.
Reduce transaction costs and save time for retailers.
Allow retailers to purchase smaller quantities of goods.
Can act as an extension of the salesforce for wholesalers or manufacturers.

Additional layer in the supply chain may increase product costs.
Lack of direct control over the sales process for wholesalers.
Some jobbers may not prioritize all manufacturers' products equally.

In summary, wholesalers and jobbers are both integral players in the supply chain, facilitating the efficient distribution of goods from manufacturers to retailers. Wholesalers play a more comprehensive role by taking ownership of goods, providing inventory management, and handling logistics. On the other hand, jobbers act as intermediaries between wholesalers and retailers, offering market expertise and breaking bulk quantities for smaller retailers. Each serves a specific purpose in the supply chain, contributing to the smooth flow of goods and meeting the diverse needs of the market.

Understanding the distinctions between wholesalers and jobbers empowers manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to make informed decisions in the distribution process, optimizing efficiency and enhancing overall supply chain management.

Resources and Sources:

Bowersox, D. J., Closs, D. J., & Cooper, M. B. (2007). "Supply Chain Logistics Management."
Hugos, M. (2018). "Essentials of Supply Chain Management."
Cox, J. F., & Blackstone, J. H. (2016). "APICS Dictionary."
Shaban, A., & Awan, H. M. (2019). "The Role of Middlemen in Supply Chain Management."
Klassen, R. D., & Vereecke, A. (2018). "Handbook of Behavioral Operations."
Chopra, S., & Meindl, P. (2015). "Supply Chain Management: Strategy, Planning, and Operation."
Novack, R. A., Gibson, B. J., & Bowersox, D. J. (2017). "Supply Chain Management: A Logistics Perspective."