The entire retail ecosystem has endured ongoing struggles as it adapted to rapidly shifting circumstances, and wholesale retailers have not been immune. While 2024 is bound to bring increased stability, persistent challenges remain, while fresh ones have emerged. Successful retail wholesalers will embrace agile reinvention—from accelerating digital transformation to evolving traditional business models—as they aim to keep pace.

Here are seven projected challenges for the wholesale retail industry in 2024, with solutions that will help your company thrive.

Challenge 1: Consumer Behavior Is Leading to Unpredictable Inventory Management.

Economic uncertainties continue to plague consumers as the Consumer Price Index maintained its upward trajectory in the first quarter.[1] Yet despite rising prices, consumers are indulging in treats and luxuries, with 82% reporting a splurge purchase in February 2024.[2] These divergent pictures can make it confusing for wholesale retailers to stock the right items in the right quantities.


Incorporating data-driven insights is critical to better analyze trends and anticipate consumer behavior. Consider working with retailers on a “just-in-time” schedule to avoid sending excessive product to a store or site where it will languish, potentially missing prospects in other places.

Challenge 2: Supply Chain Disruptions Persist.

Geopolitical conflicts, extreme weather, and inventory challenges continue to snarl supply chains. And there’s no end in sight: In a McKinsey survey, 73% of chief procurement officers said demand volatility will remain a top challenge in supplier relationships.[3]


Real-time insight and visibility can help you pivot swiftly to dynamic market conditions—and that’s a job for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), two technologies that can analyze vast amounts of data with precision and speed. They can detect trends and patterns in real-time, helping streamline logistics and optimize efficiencies.

Small business loans or lines of credit give wholesalers flexibility to access funds to upgrade technology systems or take advantage of serendipitous buying opportunities. 

Challenge 3: Gauging Warehouse Capacity Can Be Complicated.

Retailers who had previously stocked up to cope with distressed supply chains now are reverting to a leaner, “just-in-time” inventory management strategy. Couple that with lingering consumer uncertainty, and it’s harder than ever for wholesalers to align inventories with fluctuating retailer demands.


Flexible, scalable alternatives, such as subleasing, allow you to rightsize your space to fulfill shifting demands. Being prepared with lines of credit provides agility.

Challenge 4: Wholesalers Should Be Equipped to Handle Multiple Types of Payments.

Wholesale retailers often handle large orders and high transaction volumes, which can strain payment processing systems and increase the risk of errors. Against this backdrop, you may be offering more complex payment structures, such as volume discounts, bulk pricing, and negotiated terms, which can complicate the payment process. In addition, cross-global commerce is a key lever for continued growth, requiring multi-currency support.


Wholesale businesses may want to offer flexible payment options and streamlined processes to meet customer expectations, which means aligning with the right banking partner. PNC offers a complete suite of payment solutions that prioritize end-to-end security with new and improved encryption, tokenization, monitoring, data scanning, and anti-virus technology.

Challenge 5: Environmentally Conscious Buyers Are Increasingly Interested in Sustainable Materials and Ethical Sourcing.

Increased pressure to reduce carbon footprint means wholesale retailers are aiming for more insight into materials sourcing at all product development levels.


Organizations can create systems that evaluate environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle, from sourcing to shipping. Data analytics tools can then analyze resource consumption and identify process inefficiencies. Wholesalers can also consider rolling out sustainable packaging and adopting ecofriendly shipping practices, such as consolidating shipments and finding carriers who optimize routes and use alternative fuels.

Challenge 6: Excessive Returns Are Weighing Down the Bottom Line.

Frequent returns are a well-known issue in the retail space, with the National Retail Federation reporting a return rate of 14.5%.[4] Wholesalers are then affected if retailers return the unsold goods, many of which may be past their prime due to an overly generous retailer return policy.


Consider updating return agreements with your retail partners so they are mutually beneficial and provide some protection in the event of unexpected late-season returns. Leveraging data tools like AI can spot patterns in returns and help you fine-tune forecasts.

Challenge 7: Increased Competition Has Led to Market Saturation.

With the ease of international trade and the growth of ecommerce platforms, wholesale retailers may face competition from both domestic and international suppliers, as barriers to entry fall. 

In addition, the internet has made it easier for customers to compare prices, and this transparency can make it harder to gain attractive margins.


Become the supplier of choice by boosting customer service, increasing personalization, and offering a unique value proposition rather than defaulting to price cuts, which can erode brand reputation and margins. You could also vet potential partners for mergers or acquisitions if consolidation would help bolster your bottom line. A PNC business banker can walk you through the process and be a sounding board as you identify potential targets.

From Obstacles to Opportunities

The 2024 ecosystem continues to evolve rapidly, and wholesale retailers need to be on the cutting edge to optimize processes. Retail wholesalers can turn to PNC to gain a competitive edge in today’s dynamic marketplace with the right banking products and services.