What is a 'Vendor'

A vendor is a party in the supply chain that makes goods and services available to companies or consumers. The term "vendor" is typically used to describe the entity that is paid for goods that are provided, rather than the manufacturer of the goods itself. It is possible, however, for a vendor to sometimes operate as both a supplier (or seller) of goods and a manufacturer.


A vendor, also known as a supplier, is a person or a business entity that sells something. Large retail stores such as Target, for example, generally have a list of vendors from which they purchase goods at wholesale that they sell at retail to their customers. Vendors can also sell directly to the customer, as seen with street vendors and food trucks. In addition, a vendor can act as a business-to-business (B2B) sales organization that provides parts for another business to make an end product.

Vendors as Part of the Supply Chain

A supply chain is the summation of all individuals, organizations, resources, activities and technologies used in the manufacturing and selling of a good or service. The supply chain starts with the production and delivery of raw source material, and it ends with the sale and delivery of the end product. Vendors are found all throughout the supply chain. For example, a manufacturer that turns raw material into a finished good is a vendor to wholesalers and retailers that sell the product to a consumer. In turn, retailers are a vendor for the end customer. For example, Target is a vendor for a person looking for home appliances. A vendor, therefore, is a general term used to describe any supplier of a good or service.

An Example of Vendors

Large corporate events are good examples of times when vendors are needed. If, for example, the human resources department of a large company plan a holiday party for its employees, it seeks to hire outside vendors to supply the event. First, the department has to choose a location, and the owner of the event space itself becomes a vendor when the date is reserved and the contract signed.

After the event space is selected, the human resources department reaches out to decorators who become vendors when they are hired to transform the event space into a themed party. After the theme is implemented, a catering company is contracted to provide food and beverages for the party. When the company delivers its service, it becomes a vendor to the corporation hosting the party.