Difference Wiki

Supplier vs. Distributor: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
Suppliers provide goods/services, often directly from manufacturers, while distributors buy those goods to supply to retailers or end-users; both vital in supply chains.

Key Differences

Suppliers are entities that provide goods or services, usually procured directly from the manufacturers. Distributors are intermediaries that purchase goods from suppliers or manufacturers and then redistribute them to retailers or end-users.
In the supply chain, suppliers are closer to the origin of the goods, often having direct ties with the manufacturers. In contrast, distributors operate further down the supply chain, primarily dealing with the logistics and delivery of goods to various parties.
Suppliers focus on managing raw materials or finished products and maintaining relationships with manufacturers. However, distributors specialize in developing relationships with retailers and end-users, often providing additional services like marketing and after-sales support.
Suppliers usually handle larger bulk transactions, selling large quantities of products to a few buyers, typically distributors. On the other hand, distributors often buy products in substantial volumes but sell in smaller quantities to several retailers or end-users.
The role of suppliers is more about ensuring the availability and quality of goods or services. Distributors, however, are essential for extending a product's reach in the market, dealing with the complexities of logistics, storage, and transportation.

Comparison Chart


Provides goods/services, often from manufacturers.
Buys and resells goods to retailers/end-users.

Position in Supply Chain

Closer to product origin/manufacturers.
Operates further down, closer to end-users.

Main Focus

Managing products, quality, manufacturer relations.
Logistics, marketing, customer relations.

Transaction Type

Larger bulk, fewer clients.
Smaller quantities, diverse clients.


Product availability and quality assurance.
Enhancing product reach, handling logistics.

Supplier and Distributor Definitions


An entity that provides goods or services within a supply chain.
The company struggled to keep up with demand when their supplier faced production issues.


Handles logistics and delivery in the supply chain.
The distributor used advanced logistics solutions to ensure timely delivery of products across the region.


Ensures the availability and quality of products or services.
The supplier guaranteed the freshness of their produce, emphasizing their strict quality control measures.


Works with several clients, often in smaller quantities than suppliers.
The distributor catered to several small businesses, providing them with customized solutions.


Handles large bulk transactions, dealing with few clients.
The wholesale supplier only accepted orders exceeding a certain quantity.


Essential for extending a product's market reach.
With an extensive network, the distributor played a key role in the product's nationwide success.


Often sources products directly from manufacturers.
We secured a better price by contacting the supplier directly, bypassing the retailer.


An intermediary that buys and resells goods, often to retailers.
After buying the latest gadgets from the manufacturer, the distributor then sold them to various electronics stores.


Maintains a critical relationship with manufacturers.
Through long-term partnerships, the supplier managed to negotiate favorable terms with several prominent manufacturers.


Provides additional services like marketing and support.
In addition to selling appliances, the distributor also offered extensive post-sale maintenance.


To make available for use; provide
Does the hotel supply towels?.


One that distributes, especially a device that applies electric current in proper sequence to the spark plugs of an engine.


How do suppliers and distributors differ in the supply chain?

Suppliers are closer to manufacturers, while distributors operate closer to the market or end-users.

What is a supplier?

A supplier is an entity that provides goods or services, often directly from manufacturers.

Can a supplier also be a distributor?

Yes, if the entity procures goods from manufacturers and resells them to end-users, it can be both.

How do distributors add value?

They enhance product reach, ensure product delivery, and often provide additional services.

What is a distributor?

A distributor is an intermediary that purchases and resells goods to retailers or end-users.

What's the main focus of a supplier?

Suppliers focus on product management, quality control, and manufacturer relations.

Do distributors interact with manufacturers?

Yes, especially when they source products directly without an intermediary supplier.

Can a business change suppliers?

Yes, businesses can switch suppliers based on cost, quality, or supply chain needs.

Are suppliers involved in after-sales services?

Typically, they aren't; this is usually handled by distributors or retailers.

What roles do distributors play?

Distributors handle logistics, marketing, customer relationships, and after-sales support.

Why are suppliers important?

They ensure the availability and quality of products or services in the supply chain.

Do suppliers deal with end-users?

Generally, suppliers deal with manufacturers or distributors, not directly with end-users.

Who do distributors typically serve?

Distributors serve retailers and end-users, offering goods and related services.

What is a distributor's role in customer satisfaction?

They ensure product availability, delivery, and often handle service or warranty issues.

How do suppliers affect product cost?

Suppliers' pricing, production, and logistics costs directly influence product prices.

What's the relationship between a supplier and manufacturer?

Suppliers often procure directly from manufacturers, acting as a link to distributors/retailers.

How do distributors manage logistics?

They handle warehousing, transportation, and delivery to various retailers or end-users.

What challenges do suppliers face?

They deal with production, quality control, and supply chain disruptions.

Are distributors responsible for product marketing?

Yes, they often handle marketing and market penetration strategies.

Can distributors influence product pricing?

Yes, distributor margins and logistics costs can affect final product prices.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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