Difference between Supplier and Distributor
By Theydiffer - November 18, 2015

Suppliers and distributors are two key entities that play a very significant role in the supply chain which is very important in marketing, as they are both part of the value chain and its logistics. Both work hard to make sure that the products or merchandise are available to consumers and keep the market flowing smoothly, without allowing shortages of the required products.

Both supplier and distributor are part of an interconnected supply chain and need to work with each other to meet the product demand and supply of consumers in a particular area.


Supplier can be defined as ‘a party that is the source for goods or services’. A supplier is someone who provides the products, commodity or services to consumers, usually via distributors. The suppliers can also be manufacturers, processors, packagers, wholesalers, dealers, and merchants who deal in particular products and merchandise.

On the other hand, a distributor is someone who distributes the goods directly to the stores or other businesses that sell to consumers. A distributor acts as an intermediary between the producers and consumers as the suppliers cannot take their products to the consumers directly and need distributors to help them with it.


A distributor can be best defined as “an entity that buys the non-competing products or product lines, warehouses them, and then resells them to the retailers or directly to the end users or customers”. Suppliers and distributors are a vital part of the supply-chain mechanism in a business world and they can be either individuals or organizations that provide resources to each other to produce, supply and distribute the goods.

Regardless of the differences between the suppliers and distributors, it is necessary to understand that both these entities cannot survive on their own and need each other to achieve their objective and to make the products available to customers.

Supplier vs Distributor

What is the difference between supplier and distributor? Suppliers and distributors are different because the functions that they serve are diverse and each plays a key role in the business market, meeting the supply and demand of the consumers in a timely manner. The difference between the two is that the supplier is the provider of a product or service which can be traced back to the manufacturer whereas the distributor is any organisation that purchases products from a supplier, stores them, and then resells them to retailers.

It is necessary to understand that a supplier can either only manufacture or get a product but cannot take it forward. It is the distributor who has the resources and the skills to distribute the goods directly to the stores, other businesses or the consumers. It would not be wrong to say that it is the distributors who are the middle men and take things from suppliers and bring them to the consumers for usage.

The suppliers only have the resources to either manufacture the products or commodities or import them from some other source. On the other hand, the distributors have access to the right channels as well as marketing strategies to act as a link between the market and the consumers.

Comparison Chart

Supplier Distributor
A supplier is an individual, company or any other organization that provides goods or services to a recognizable customer or consumer, usually via a distributorA distributor is an intermediary between supplier and retailers, with a large warehousing capacity and a sales and delivery force servicing stores in a particular area
They do not resell the productsThey can resell the products as it is their job
They sell goods to distributorsThey sell the goods that they get from suppliers
They can either produce or import productsThey do not produce or manufacture but sell the products that have been imported and produced

The role of a supplier and distributor is often misunderstood because many believe them to be the same, but they are very different and perform varied functions in the business arena that set them apart.