If one wanted to buy homebrew equipment in bulk, is there a way to go straight to the distributor? Bypass the LHBS / Northern Brewer / etc., and buy straight from the supplier? IF so, does anyone know who the main suppliers are?
Equipment manufacturers use distributors to pass their products onto consumers as they are focused on R&D, manufacturing and quality management, not customer service. With a few exceptions, like Dell and Apple in the PC arena, suppliers will not sell direct to consumers for a number of reasons.
- Agreements with their distributors, prevent them from doing this.
- Tax and liability issues.
- Customers services, single unit shipping, returns, payments etc.
That being said, if you are going to make repeated bulk purchases, many suppliers are willing to make you a distributor of their products and will set you up as a company/trade account. Implied in this are that you will probably require a business tax id and an ability to receive freight at your property (16-wheeler friendly and possibly a dock).
If you are just looking for a discount. I would suggest approaching LHBS or Northern Brewer about a trade account and discuss discounts with them while you are on the phone.
Not exactly an answer to your question, but it looks like your out to save a bit of coin. Check with your local homebrew clubs, many of the locals here have agreements with Midwest or Northern Brewer for club discounts.
I've also seen people selling kettles in on craigslist, and I would imagine to get enough price savings to turn a profit perhaps they approached one of the kettle brands to become a licensed distributor.