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Shipping Container Sales: Wholesale vs. Retail

13.06.2015 - Posted by Updated On 13.06.2015    

There has been much discussion lately of how to effectively grow shipping container sales as the industry matures and expands. Retail and wholesale shipping container sales, like most other industries, are two very different functions, and the industry needs both to survive and thrive. While it’s not possible to completely predict what this segment of the industry will look like in 20 years, the only thing certain is change.

To fully understand the roles of both sides of the industry, we’ll need to look a little deeper into the services of each role. But first, let’s state the obvious: The end goal for both wholesale and retail shipping container sales is to sell shipping containers.

Wholesale Shipping Container Sales

Container wholesales are either traders that purchase portfolios of containers directly from shipping lines, leasing companies that are selling their own inventory, or shipping lines that are selling out of their old containers. The size of their sales force can range from one or two people covering a continent, or 10-20 people covering the same sized continent. The difference in staffing is often directly related to the volume of containers that must be sold and the corporate structure.

Wholesale container sales must deal in volume to survive, so there is typically less/no “on site” service such as painting, modification work, or tilt bed single container delivery provided. The reason for this has to deal with a much thinner profit margin. Being involved in coordinating the delivery of one container can be time consuming and the representative’s time is better spent focusing on multiple unit transactions.

A typical customer for a wholesale trader could be a local retail dealer, another leasing company or trader, or certain types of commercial buyers (ie: oil and gas or construction companies).

shipping container stack

Retail Shipping Container Sales

Retail traders and companies may work out of the depot, or they may have their own location from which they sell their shipping containers. They typically have the ability to deliver the container on a tilt bed truck, as well as paint and modify the equipment to meet the requirements of the customer.

When the general consumer purchases a shipping container it’s most likely from a local, retail trader. During this transaction the buyer can look at the inventory of shipping containers on site, request any modifications, make a payment and schedule the delivery. For this single sale, the retail trader gains his profit on the extra services provided and a single unit sale is much more profitable.

A typical customer for a retail company would be a general consumer that needs a container for storage on their farm or ranch, or a commercial buyer that needs the container heavily modified to serve another purpose.

Effective Container Sales

There are many ways that both sides of the industry can grow, and while some lead to wholesalers competing for segments of the industry with their retail customers, there are also opportunities for each side to work together more effectively at cost reduction and efficient behaviors. It is imperative that companies and individuals examine the way that containers are stored, delivered, and how the transactions take place in order to fully understand where the greatest opportunities for improvement are. Once the non-value adding behaviors are identified they can be eliminated and the full sales process can be gradually restructured, providing greater benefit in terms of service and pricing to everyone.

If you are involved in either the wholesale or retail side of the shipping container industry and have ideas on which direction the market could be moving, or would like to open a discussion about how different tools and services could be used to grown your business, please contact any of our staff or Tweet us @CTNAuction.

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