How to start a distribution business in the UK

What is a distribution business?The distribution business in the UK is a critical part of the economy, handling the transport and delivery of goods across the country. Distribution businesses play a vital role in ensuring that goods are delivered to retailers on time and in good condition, and they also provide an important link between suppliers and customers.

In the UK distribution services are highly competitive, with many companies vying for market share. In order to succeed, distribution businesses need to offer a high level of service at a competitive price. They also need to have a strong understanding of the logistics of the UK market and be able to adapt to changes in demand. Distribution businesses that can meet these challenges will be well-positioned to grow and thrive in the UK market.

To create a distribution business, nine key steps must be followed, including financial planning, organisation, and networking with professionals. To ensure you gather the necessary resources and legal documentation, you can create a to-do list if you are considering starting this type of business. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of what a distribution business is and how it is built.

What is a distribution business?

Distribution businesses move products and materials from manufacturers to retailers as part of the supply chain. Distribution businesses buy goods that manufacturers produce and sell them to retailers, making a profit as a result. Distribution businesses can be divided into two types:

– Retail distributors, who sell directly to consumers

– Wholesale distributors, which are business ventures that resell the products to end-users

It is possible for distribution companies to operate independently or contract with manufacturers.

How to start a distribution business

Learn how to start a distribution business by following these steps:

  1. Choose your product.
  2. Identify your niche.
  3. Decide how you’ll sell products.
  4. Select how you’ll manage inventory.
  5. Determine adequate storage space.
  6. Get a business license.
  7. Improve your business skills.
  8. Find manufacturers.
  9. Communicate with retailers.

Choose your product

Find a product that meets a need before making your choice. Identify the needs of various retailers by contacting them and asking questions. Creating potential sales connections can also be accomplished through this first step. Market research and trends from various industries can also help you determine what problems consumers have and how to solve them. To simplify your market research process, choose products or industries you are familiar with.

When choosing a product, you should also consider your budget. Keeping overhead costs low and maximising profits can be achieved by choosing a product that is cheaper to purchase from manufacturers.

Identify your niche

Typically, a niche is a small segment of the market specialising in a specific product. It is possible to reduce the number of competing distribution companies by selecting a niche. Manufacturers tend to have stronger relationships with niche markets. As a result, you will be able to deliver quality products to retailers, giving you more control over your business. Retailers and consumers will trust you more and you will be able to negotiate more lucrative contracts with manufacturers.

Also, consumers and retailers have fewer options when purchasing in a niche market with fewer competitors. Your business and partnerships can succeed if you provide the best products.

Decide how you’ll sell your products

Your products will be sold to clients through a model of supply distribution. Among the possibilities are:

Brokerage: You arrange transactions between a buyer and a seller and receive a commission when the deal closes.

Export and import: You buy goods abroad to sell in your country, or you buy local products and sell them internationally.

Cash and carry: You ask clients to pay up front, and they pick up the goods at a distribution centre.

Online sales distribution: Consumers and retailers complete their transactions online. A website or online store can be your online platform.

A cash-and-carry model and an online model both reduce the number of employees needed to deliver supplies, thereby reducing overhead costs.

Decide how to manage your inventory

In a distribution business, inventory management is a crucial element because it determines the number of employees you need, the size of your warehouse, the type of organisation and tracking software or systems you use, as well as the effectiveness of your order processing. Inventory management can be done in two ways:

The process of warehousing involves buying products and keeping them before selling them to retailers. Stocks can act as a buffer against price changes that are immediate. For instance, if the price of your preferred product rises on the manufacturer’s side, you will be less affected directly if you have it in stock, and you will have more time to make a decision. In the short term, you can still price your product the way you want until stock runs out.

In dropshipping, you buy products and ship them directly to your clients. There is more flexibility with dropshipping. If the products don’t sell, there are fewer extra costs, and you don’t need to organise a clearance sale to get rid of extra inventory if the products don’t sell.

Determine adequate storage space

If you decide to keep your inventory in a warehouse, make sure you have an adequate space for it. After you receive your products and before you ship them to your customers, you may need to store them.

In terms of inventory storage, there are several options available. Warehouses can be rented, bought, or leased. Several small distribution companies are operated from the owner’s home, where stock is kept in a room. You may use your home’s storage space if your situation permits. To determine whether business storage is allowed in your residential area, contact your local government.

Read more: Selecting a logistics partner

Get a license

Licenses are required to operate a distribution business legally. For supply distributors, this administrative process involves registering for a business tax identification number and obtaining any licenses they need. Your state’s regulations as well as the forms you need to complete can be found out by a legal professional experienced in business ventures.

Improve your business skills

Business owners in the distribution industry can benefit from a variety of professional skills. The following are some examples:

In order to keep your prices attractive to your retail partners and consumers, you should try to get the lowest price possible. Using negotiation skills such as persuasion, collaboration, and strategising can help you reach mutually beneficial agreements.

You may be responsible for hiring, training, and supervising employees, as well as overseeing marketing and finance operations. Task delegation, team building, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and goal setting are skills you can use to accomplish these tasks.

The ability to communicate verbally and in writing, to show empathy, and to establish rapport with customers and other professional contacts is essential in customer service roles.

A solid understanding of budgeting, taxation, financial goal setting, and money management software can help you ensure your business’s success.

Consider pursuing coursework or a degree in business administration, finance, entrepreneurship, or communication to develop these and other relevant skills. In addition, there are a number of business development books, blogs, and online professional resources available to you. In addition to seminars and conferences, some organisations offer training for new business owners.

Find manufacturers

Online wholesalers come in many varieties, and you can start by searching for those that produce the products you want to sell. Potential sellers are negotiated contracts by representatives or other contacts. After reaching out to these potential partners, discuss pricing, transporting the goods to your warehouse, and signing contracts if needed. You can be more competitive by negotiating exclusivity with a single manufacturer, which further reduces competition and requires interested retailers to place orders through your distributor.

Communicate with retailers

Provide a catalogue to local retailers who might be interested in your products. Price your products so that businesses will order from your distribution company. To encourage retailers to order from you instead of your competitors, develop strong business relationships. Ensure that retailers are satisfied by regularly communicating about their inventory and interviewing them about their needs.


Starting a distribution business in the UK requires careful planning and consideration of various legal and financial factors. The first step is to choose the type of business structure, such as a sole trader, partnership, limited liability company or a limited partnership. Then, you need to register your business with Companies House and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.

It is also important to have a clear understanding of UK tax laws and to register for VAT if your turnover exceeds the threshold. Additionally, securing adequate insurance coverage is important to protect your business. Finally, it is advisable to develop a comprehensive business plan, outlining your target market, product offerings, marketing strategies, and financial projections.

Business Finance specialist at Invoice funding | + posts

Seasoned professional with a strong passion for the world of business finance. With over twenty years of dedicated experience in the field, my journey into the world of business finance began with a relentless curiosity for understanding the intricate workings of financial systems.

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