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Wolfbarco is a Manufacturer-Direct VAR

Wolfbarco is a Manufacturer-Direct VAR

Who is Wolfbarco? What do you guys do? We got asked this question many times. We hope this article provides answers and help you get to know us a little better.

Like any other industries, in the world of thermal transfer ribbon, there are a plethora of players. However different the players are, they all fall into one of the functional groups along the supply chain. The key functional groups are OEM, VAR, Distributor, Wholesaler, and Retailer. The list is ordered based on their distance to the end-user, with the first furthest away from the end-user and the last directly interacting with the end-user. We are going to review briefly each of these functions so that you have a complete picture of the whole chain. Then we will identify where Wolfbarco stands on this chain and how we can provide value and help you stay competitive in the market. 


By definition, OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, who manufactures products as parts or components for another company’s branded product. OEMs do not sell their products to end users (customers). In most cases, the end users don't know who the OEMs are. They only know the brand owners, like Zebra.  We are going to describe in detail how Zebra positions in the thermal transfer ribbon supply chain in later paragraph.


A distributor/wholesaler distributes products from the manufacturer. It often acts as partner with the manufacturer, and is generally first in line in the distribution channel. Distributors sell to wholesalers. Wholesalers sell to retailers and retailers to end-users. Distributors usually buy directly from the manufacturers, hold inventory, hire sales people to sell the products and provide after-sale service. Because of the service distributors provide, distributors generally take a big chunk of margin in the supply chain in order to maintain operation.


A retailer usually does not have a direct relationship with the manufacturer as it generally buys products from distributors or wholesalers. Retailers keep inventory of product but don't provide after-sale services. In most cases, retailers only sell to end users. 


A Value Added Reseller, or VAR, is similar to reseller. VAR will purchase parts and products from OEM and integrate with other products and sell the final products to end users.The difference between VAR and general reseller is that VAR works closely with the OEM and OEM often times customize designs based upon VAR specifications, while general resellers buys from a distributor not OEM. The common practice is that most VAR companies have the agreements with OEM for long term purchase. With the agreement in place, OEM can invest new technology for their production line to produce competitive parts or components. And the agreements may not allow OEM to sell their parts/products to the end-users, since it is interest conflict for VAR. Both OEM and VAR focus on their core expertise and it is a win-win business. 

Zebra a VAR

The Zebra thermal transfer ribbons are designed by Zebra Technologies and manufactured by its licensed contract manufacturers. In this case Zebra is a VAR. 

Where to purchase Thermal Transfer Ribbons

To the end user, there are several different channels to purchase thermal transfer ribbons, including retailer, wholesaler, distributor and VAR. No matter which channel you use to purchase your ribbon, you are usually two or three brokers away from the OEM. These brokers add value by stocking inventory for you so whenever you need it, you can place the purchase order. But they also bake their operating cost into the purchase price. The end result is that you will pay much higher price.

Wolfbarco as Manufacturer-Direct VAR

This is where Wolfbarco comes in to provide value to both the end users and OEM. Wolfbarco is a manufacturer-direct VAR. We work with a dozen of OEMs and manufacturers in the thermal transfer ribbon industry to shorten the supply chain to the end user. Among our strategic partners, there are label printer OEMs, thermal transfer ribbon manufacturers and label converters.  

Shortest Supply Chain

We work directly with the manufacturer/OEM. This means that we place you directly buying from the manufacturer. This is the shortest possible supply chain.

Safety Stock for Customer

Based on market demand, we stock inventory in our warehouse to fulfill customer’s demand. We help you build stock so you don’t have to. 

Competitive Price

With our inbound marketing approach and continuous process automation, we maintain a lean operation and you get the most competitive price.