The number of shoe styles and types on the market has steadily and dramatically increased since about the 1980s. Today there are literally thousands of options in shoes and niche markets that never existed before for both youths and adults. This presents a business opportunity for the person who can meet the demands of these customers.
Start with a business plan. This is the best first step for all new businesses. A business plan will put any vague ideas and fuzzy plans you have into concrete numbers regarding important factors such as start-up costs, monthly overhead and competitive analysis. This will open your eyes to the realities of your shoe-distributor business. See the Resources section for specific advice from the Small Business Administration on how to write a business plan.
Make a trip down to your state taxation and revenue department office and get a resale tax ID number before you do anything else. All reputable shoe manufacturers will require that you provide this before they will consider selling shoes to you at wholesale. This number is also necessary because it is the way the state identifies you as a tax-paying business. The number will enable you to buy any products that are for resale without paying any sales tax on them.
Go down to the municipal office that is responsible for issuing business licenses and get one for your new business. In order to do this, you will probably need to provide the tax ID number from Step 1. As long as you are not planning to do anything that violates city zoning regulations (such as build a commercial warehouse in your backyard), you should not have any difficulty, and you should receive the license after you pay a small fee. Shoe manufacturers most likely also will require that you provide them with a copy of your business license.
Apply for a federal tax id number, also known as EIN or employer identification number, by going to the IRS website. See the Resources section for the website address. By doing this, your new business is identified also as a federal taxpayer. Once again, shoe suppliers will probably ask for this number as part of the documentation you provide when applying for an account with them.
Determine which brands of shoes that you wish to sell. Since you were interested in the shoe business to start with, you will certainly already have certain brands in mind. Research other brand possibilities that may work for the customer demographic to which you will be marketing. You may not be successful in every attempt to set up an account, and you need other options. For example, a directory of all the major athletic shoe manufacturers can be found at the website listed in the Resources section.
Gather all of the above documentation. Make contact with the shoe wholesalers in which you are interested . Many companies have online application processes now, but you are likely to still be asked to mail or fax them copies of your business license, state and federal tax ID's, and other paperwork. Finally, many major companies require that you meet with their area sales representatives. Once you go through this process and are approved, you're ready to start selling your shoes.