Promo University

What Are Wholesale Tote Bags & How Do You Choose the Right Style?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: May 29th, 2021

You probably have a bunch of tote bags in your closet at home. These bags come in handy for just about everything, whether it's bringing groceries home from the store, returning overdue books to the library, or packing up for a fun trip to the beach.

With their versatility, many businesses also like to advertise with custom tote bags. If that sounds like you, it's always helpful to have a place to start. So let's find the right wholesale tote bags for your brand!

What is a Tote Bag?

tote bag

A tote bag is a large reusable bag made from a sturdy material like canvas or cotton. It's typically open at the top and comes with two carrying handles that make it comfortable to carry throughout the day.

tote bag

What Are Wholesale Tote Bags?

tote bag

Wholesale tote bags are purchased in bulk, kind of like how you get a bunch of toilet paper or eggs at one time at places like Sam's Club or Costco. Most orders are for over 50 bags, saving you money if you're using them at your store or for a promotional event like a trade show.

tote bag

How Can You Use Bulk Tote Bags in Advertising?

You're probably not buying a bunch of tote bags on a whim, right? It's likely that your store needs them in the checkout lanes, or that you're hosting a town fair and handing out welcome bags to all of your visitors.

Wholesales bags are useful for all of the following:

grocery store

Grocery Stores

The average U.S. household makes an average of 1.6 trips to the grocery store every week. Cut down on paper and plastic waste by offering reusable grocery bags at your store.

trade shows

Trade Shows & Conventions

Are you hosting a trade show or convention? Bring wholesale bags along to the venue and hand them out to everyone when they register. The average attendee will spend 8.3 hours viewing the exhibits, and it's much easier to take swag from the booths if they have a bag they can carry around.

farmers markets

Farmer's Markets

People are trying to eat healthier and are interested in organic foods. For this reason, farmer's markets have become extremely popular. According to NPR, there were more than 8,600 farmer's markets in the United States in 2019. It'll be easier for your visitors to stock up on fruits and veggies if they have custom tote bags they can use.

town fairs

Town Fairs & Community Events

Whether you're celebrating your town's bicentennial or hosting a fundraiser in the community, tote bags are sure to be a huge hit with the crowd! Go with cheap bags since you'll likely be giving hundreds to thousands away for free.

holiday parties

Holiday Parties

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Host a holiday party to remember by handing out gift bags or canvas totes full of goodies to all of your guests. A nice bottle of wine doesn't hurt either!

bookstore

Book Fairs or Bookstores

Is your library or school hosting a book fair? Do you manage a bookstore? Either way, encourage your visitors to fill up bulk tote bags with everything from bestselling titles to classic novels. Sadly, 24% of American adults haven't read a book in the past year. Maybe that number will change if they have an easy way to carry their literature!

Gym

New Gym Memberships

Fitness buffs are going to want to bring a water bottles, headphones, and a change of clothes with to their workout. Make it easy by handing out large tote bags when they sign up for a membership.

college orientation

College Orientation Days

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 19.9 million students were enrolled in U.S. colleges in fall 2019. Just imagine how many new eyes will be drawn to your school if you give out tote bags printed with your logo on orientation day!

job fairs

Job Fairs

Your dream hire can be 10 feet away! Draw them to the booth at your job fair by giving away sleek, professional tote bags. Fill the bags up with office supplies like ballpoint pens and Post-it Notes!

animal shelters

Animal Shelters

Everyone loves cute puppies and kittens, and thankfully, many are finding new homes. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted every year. Give away promotional tote bags with every adoption, and who knows how many more pets will find a loving family?

beach bash

Beach Bash

Grab a towel, sunscreen, and of course, a fun beach read! Nothing is better than soaking up the sun, and beach totes help make your life easier. You can pack up everything you need for a day by the water!

travel agency

Travel Agency

Help your clients get ready for their vacation with custom tote bags! They're great gifts for everyone, but especially frequent flyers. See-through bags in particular are great as carry-on bags and make check-in way easier.

Bulk tote bags are useful in a variety of situations, not limited to the ones listed here. Everyone who receives one will use it time and time again!

What Are the Different Tote Bag Styles?

Before you can start shopping for tote bags, you need to know about the different materials and styles you have to choose from. The options range from practical to stylish!

Tote Bag Materials
canvas tote bags

Canvas Tote Bags

Canvas tote bags are the most common style. They're insanely durable and are perfect for holding heavy items like cans or books.

Benefits of canvas tote bags:


  • Strong
  • Resilient
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good for outdoor events
Cotton tote bags

Cotton Tote Bags

Why should sheep have all the glory? Cotton makes for a lightweight bag that's easy to wash and carry around all day.

Benefits of cotton tote bags:


  • Eco-friendly
  • Often machine-washable
  • Comfy
  • Affordable
Polyester tote bags

Polyester Tote Bags

Did your dad wear a polyester suit in the 70s? It may have been embarrassing at the time, but your pops was onto something! Polyester is a strong cotton blend that stays crisp over time.

Benefits of polyester tote bags:


  • Sturdy
  • Doesn't wrinkle
  • Resistant to mildew
  • Won't tear easily
nylon tote bag

Nylon Tote Bags

If you've ever worn nylons under a dress, you know this is an extremely flexible, comfortable material to wear. It has a nice, casual look when it's used to make wholesale bags.

Benefits of nylon tote bags:


  • Stretchy
  • Durable
  • Easy to wash
  • Soft
PVC tote bag

PVC Tote Bags

You might have PVC pipes in your kitchen or bathroom, but this type of plastic is also used to make tote bags. Since PVC tote bags are easy to clean, they're great for grocery stores, restaurants, and food-themed events.

Benefits of PVC tote bags:


  • Easy to clean
  • Low cost
  • Doesn't stain easily
  • Color doesn't fade
Polyurethane tote bag

Polyurethane Tote Bags

Polyurethane is used to make stress balls, so you know you're working with a squishy, soft material! Not only is it comfy, but polyurethane is also tough-as-nails and can withstand any temperature, from hot summers to snowy winters.

Benefits of polyurethane tote bags:


  • Flexible
  • Able to withstand heat and moisture
  • Long-lasting
  • Won't get moldy or smelly
Polypropylene tote bag

Polypropylene Tote Bags

Look around your house, and you'll probably see at least one piece of furniture or an appliance that's made using polypropylene. Wholesale tote bags made from this material can handle even the heftiest items!

Benefits of polypropylene tote bags:


  • Water-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Good for heavy items
  • Resistant to heat
Jute tote bag

Jute Tote Bags

If you're going for rustic charm, look no further! Jute is a natural fiber made from plants. It's not only affordable, but it also has a nature-inspired look that's great for eco-friendly organizations.

Benefits of jute tote bags:


  • Elegant, natural look
  • Biodegradable
  • Tough
  • Sustainably made
Paper tote bag

Paper Tote Bags

While paper bags aren't as strong as other materials, they're a good option if you need a bunch of small tote bags for favors. They make especially great goodie bags at events like weddings, baby showers, and banquets.

Benefits of paper tote bags:


  • Cheap to order in bulk
  • Recyclable
  • Easy to carry
  • Best for small, lightweight items
Tote Bag Types
 tote bag

Grocery Tote Bags

A grocery style tote bag often has gussets on the sides or at this bottom. These add support so the bags can be loaded up with all your groceries, from frozen chicken to bananas.

Beach tote bag

Beach Tote Bags

Hit the waves with beach tote bags! These cloth bags are trendy and are usually water-resistant and easy to clean. You'll be thankful for these qualities when you set the bag down in the sand.

Laminated tote bag

Laminated Tote Bags

Don't worry about your custom tote bags getting stained or damaged. All you need is a bunch of laminated bags, and you'll be good to go! This extra touch helps keep the custom print from chipping off or becoming flaky over time.

Clear tote bag

Clear Tote Bags

Do you go to a lot of concerts or like to travel? Clear tote bags are a must! They're often required at public venues and make it a breeze for you to get through security checks.

Insulated/Cooler tote bag

Insulated/Cooler Tote Bags

If you're planning a picnic or going on a long trip to attend a barbecue, cooler tote bags are going to be your heroes! They have a built-in insulated lining and are kept cool with the help of an ice pack.

Non-Woven tote bag

Non-Woven Tote Bags

Put love into every stitch by ordering nonwoven tote bags in bulk! The weaving is visible, which gives off a homemade vibe that seems more personal, made with care, and from-the-heart. Order this style if you're hosting an event around the holidays!

Recycled Materials tote bag

Recycled Tote Bags

Tote bags are often thought of as better for the Earth than plastic bags. However, it's even more sustainable to use eco bags from recycled materials. You can even find bags that are created using disposable water bottles!

Compact tote bag

Compact Tote Bags

Some people like to carry tote bags around in their pockets. That's the beauty of a compact style! It can be folded down over and over again, which also saves you space if you need to keep the canvas bags in a closet or drawer.

Zippered tote bag

Zippered Tote Bags

Most of the time tote bags are open at the top, but you can also find some that have zippers. Try this style if you need to carry a bunch of paperwork to your office, or if you're carrying fragile items that you want to keep protected.

What is the Difference Between Synthetic & Natural Fabrics?

Canvas and cotton and jute…oh my! Unless you're a tailor, or work in the fashion industry, you might not know a ton about the different types of fabrics.

All fabrics can be classified as synthetic or natural. The chart below breaks down the difference.

Infograph Infograph

Synthetic fabrics/materials:


  • Canvas
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • PVC
  • Polyurethane
  • Polypropylene
  • Paper

Natural fabrics/materials:


  • Cotton
  • Jute
  • Wool
  • Hemp
  • Linen
  • Mohair
  • Silk

Cotton and jute tote bags are fairly popular, and it's possible to make bags with silk or linen, but most of your options will be created with synthetic fabrics. The good news is these materials are specially manufactured to last a long time without any wear or tear.

Natural materials, on the other hand, are more eco-friendly as they come from the harvesting of crops. They're lightweight, comfortable fabrics that are just as resilient as synthetic options.


What Are the Different Tote Bag Styles?

While tote bags are usually worn casually, you can still find options that look professional and trendy. In fact, fashion designers like Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton offer tote bags in their product lines.

Try to find wholesale tote bags that match your brand's style!

professional tote bags

Professional Tote Bags

Professional tote bags are great as corporate gifts for the holidays, or as prizes at a networking event. Achieve this look by shopping for options with leather trim, stylish details, or an embroidered design.

casual-classic tote

Classic & Casual Tote Bags

You're not into the frills! Choose plain and simple bulk tote bags in one solid color. Canvas, cotton, or denim are the best fabrics if you want to achieve this look.

trendy tote bag

Trendy Tote Bags

Do you have a mostly Gen Z target audience? Stay on trend with bags that will catch their attention. A stylish look is one thing, but if you want to take it further, look for promotional tote bags that have a cell phone pocket!

sporty tote bag

Sporty Tote Bags

Athletic stripes and mesh pockets send off a sporty vibe. If you're a coach, personal trainer, or fitness center looking for gym bags, this style is the perfect choice!

unique tote bag

Unique Tote Bags

Follow your own path and shop for unique tote bags. A bright color, fun pattern, or an unusual shape is memorable and shows that your company is all original!

How Much Do Wholesale Tote Bags Cost?

tote bags

You can get extremely cheap tote bags in bulk for your store or event. Most start at under $1 with a minimum that can be anywhere from 50 to 250 bags.

When you're ordering promotional items, it's important to remember that you're going to face tiered pricing. This is where the prices vary based on several factors including:


tote bags

You're the boss! Only you know what you're comfortable paying, so decide on a budget and then start shopping. No matter what, there are custom tote bags available at every price point!

Which Wholesale Tote Bags Are Right for You?

You've gotten a crash course in all there is to know about tote bags in bulk, so now it's time to use that information and decide which ones are best for you.

When choosing your wholesale bags, remember to consider:

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Your Need - Grocery stores might want large, insulated bags, while trade shows can get away with small canvas totes. Think about why you're ordering and then select a style that suits your needs.

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Style & Look - No one is going to want to carry something ugly! Be sure that you choose a good color and that your logo/design isn't sloppily printed or embroidered on the front.

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Material - The fabric can make or break the quality of your tote bags. Stick with strong, long-lasting materials that won't rip or be easily damaged by the sun or water.

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Size - Bigger is usually better when it comes to customized tote bags. You want the people who are using the bags to be able to carry as much as possible.

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Handles - If you're torn between two different tote bag styles, opt for the one with longer handles. This style is more comfortable to sling over the shoulder for weekend errands.

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Time Frame - When do you need your tote bags? Check that the bags you're interested in ordering aren't out of stock and will arrive in time for your deadline.

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Quantity - Have an exact number or a rough estimate of the number of people who are going to be receiving your tote bags. Are you hosting a small event? Splurge on higher-quality bags with a lower quantity. Do you have an epic bash around the corner? Choose bags that are under $1 each.

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Price - You've got a budget, and you're sticking to it! Decide on how much you're comfortable spending and then search for bulk tote bags that fit within that price point.

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Extra Features - After you've found tote bags that check all the boxes, you can look at a few options with extra bells and whistles. A few additional pockets or a cool detail on the sides can help your bags stand out from the millions of others out there!

Stats for Success

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73% of consumers own a promotional tote bag from at least one company.

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Your brand will get roughly 6,000 impressions every time someone carries one of your logo tote bags.

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An estimated 5.4% of promotional products sales comes from custom printed bags.

The Bottom Line

Ordering tote bags in bulk should never feel like a burden on your shoulders! Narrow down your choices as much as possible before you start shopping. After all, there are thousands of bags to choose from. You want to go in with a good idea of what works best for you!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

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Timmesch, M. (2013, August 17). 16 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows. Retrieved from, https://www.tsnn.com/blog/16-powerful-stats-value-trade-shows

Helmer, J. (2019, March 17). Why Are So Many Farmers Markets Failing? Because the Market is Saturated. Retrieved from, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/03/17/700715793/why-are-so-many-farmers-markets-failing-because-the-market-is-saturated

Hess, A. (2019, January 29). 24 Percent of American Adults Haven't Read a Book in the Past Year - Here's Why. Retrieved from, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/29/24-percent-of-american-adults-havent-read-a-book-in-the-past-year--heres-why-.html

Muniz, H. (2020, June 23). How Many College Students Are in the U.S.? Retrieved from, https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/how-many-college-students-in-the-us/

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved from, https://www.aspca.org/helping-people-pets/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics