A Complete Guide: How to Buy and Import Furniture From China

2020/08/28 20:55:00

A Complete Guide: How to Buy and Import Furniture From China

The United States is among the largest importers of furniture. They spend billions of dollars each year on these products. Only a few exporters can meet this consumer demand, one of which is China. The majority of furniture imports nowadays are from China - a country that houses thousands of manufacturing facilities manned by skilled labor who ensure the production of affordable but quality products.


Are you planning to buy goods from China furniture manufacturers? Then this guide will help you familiarize yourself with everything you need to know about importing furniture from China. From the different types of furniture you can buy in the country to where to find the best furniture manufacturers in making orders and import regulations, we’ve got you covered. Are you interested? Keep on reading to know more!

Why Import Furniture From China


So why should you import furniture from China?

Potential of Furniture Market in China


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The bulk of the costs of building a house or an office goes to furniture. You can considerably reduce this cost by buying Chinese furniture at wholesale quantities. Plus, prices in China are, for sure, substantially cheaper compared to retail prices in your country. China became the largest furniture exporter worldwide in 2004. They manufacture the majority of products by leading furniture designers worldwide.

Chinese furniture products are usually handcrafted without glue, nails, or screws. They are made of high-quality wood so they are ensured to last for a lifetime. Their design is engineered in such a way that every component is seamlessly connected to other parts of the furniture without making the connections visible. 

Great Supply of Furniture From China


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A lot of furniture sellers go to China to get top-quality furniture in bulk quantities so that they can enjoy the benefits of discounted prices. There are around 50,000 furniture manufacturers in China. The majority of these manufacturers are small to medium-sized. They usually produce brandless or generic furniture but some started to manufacture branded ones. With this great number of manufacturers in the country, they can produce unlimited supplies of furniture.

China even has an entire city dedicated to manufacturing furniture where you can buy at wholesale prices - Shunde. This city is in Guangdong Province and is known as the “Furniture City”.

Ease of Importing Furniture From China


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Chinese furniture manufacturers are strategically-positioned in the country so importing is made easier, even for the international furniture market. The majority are located near Hong Kong, which you might know is the economic gateway to mainland China. The Port of Hong Kong is a deepwater seaport where trading of containerized manufactured products takes place. It is the largest port in South China and is among the busiest seaports around the world.

What Types of Furniture to Import From China


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There is a wide variety of elegant and cheap furniture from China you can choose from. However, you will not find a manufacturer that produces all types of furniture. Like any other industry, every furniture manufacturer specializes in a specific area. The most common types of furniture you can import from China are the following:
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Hotel Furniture
  • Office Furniture (including office chairs)
  • Plastic Furniture
  • China wooden furniture
  • Metal Furniture
  • Wicker Furniture
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Office Furniture
  • Hotel Furniture
  • Bathroom Furniture
  • Children’s Furniture
  • Living Room Furniture
  • Dining Room Furniture
  • Bedroom Furniture
  • Sofas and couches

There are pre-designed furniture items but if you want to customize yours, there are manufacturers that also offer customization services. You can choose the design, material, and finishes. Whether you want furniture that is suitable for homes, offices, hotels, and others, you can find the best quality furniture manufacturers in China.

How to Find Furniture Manufacturers From China


After knowing the types of furniture you can buy in China and deciding which ones you want, the next step is finding a manufacturer. Here, we will give you three ways of how and where you can find reliable pre-designed and custom furniture manufacturers in China.

#1 Furniture Sourcing Agent


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If you cannot visit furniture manufacturers in China personally, you can look for a furniture sourcing agent who can buy your desired products for you. Sourcing agents can contact various top quality furniture manufacturers and/or suppliers to find the products you need. However, do take note that you will be paying more for the furniture because the sourcing agent will make a commission on the sale.

In case you do have time to visit manufacturers, suppliers, or retail shops personally, you might encounter problems in communicating with the sales representatives. This is because most of them do not know how to speak English. Some don’t even provide shipment services. In these instances, hiring a sourcing agent is also a good idea. They can be your interpreter when talking to agents. They can even handle exportation matters for you.

Sourcing agents usually ask for 3%-5% of the sale for handling shipment aspects. If you want to know more about finding a reliable sourcing agent, you can read this article.

#2 Alibaba


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Alibaba is a popular platform where you can buy furniture from China online. It is the largest directory for B2B suppliers worldwide and in fact, the top marketplace you can rely on in finding cheap and high-quality products. It contains thousands of different suppliers including furniture trading companies, factories, and wholesalers. Most of the suppliers you can find here are from China.

The Alibaba China furniture platform is ideal for online start-up businesses who want to resell furniture. You can even put your own labels on them. However, make sure to filter your choices to make sure that you transact with reliable companies. We also recommend looking for top furniture manufacturers in China instead of wholesalers or trading companies only. Alibaba.com provides information about each company which you can use to find a good supplier. This information includes the following:

  • Registered capital
  • Product scope
  • Company name
  • Product test reports
  • Company certificates

Here is another article you can read on how to find reliable suppliers on Alibaba.

#3 Furniture Fairs From China


The last method on how to find a trustworthy furniture supplier is to attend furniture fairs in China. Below are the three largest and most popular fairs in the country:

China International Furniture Fair



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The China International Furniture Fair is the biggest furniture fair in China and probably in the whole world. Thousands of international visitors attend the fair every year to see what more than 4,000 exhibitors can offer in the fair. The event takes place twice a year, usually in Guangzhou and Shanghai.

The first phase is normally scheduled every March while the second phase every September. Each phase features different product categories. For the furniture fair 2020, the 2nd phase of the 46th CIFF will be held on September 7-10 in Shanghai. For 2021, the first phase of the 47th CIFF will be in Guangzhou. You can find more information here.

The majority of the exhibitors come from Hong Kong and China, but there are also brands from North American, European, Australian, and other Asian companies. You will find a wide variety of furniture brands in the fair including the following categories:

  • Upholstery & bedding
  • Hotel furniture
  • Office furniture
  • Outdoor & Leisure
  • Home Decor & textile
  • Classical furniture
  • Modern furniture

If you want to know more about the China International Furniture Fair, you are free to contact them anytime.

Canton Fair Phase 2


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The Canton fair, also known as China Import and Export Fair, is an event held twice every year in 3 phases. For 2020, the 2nd Canton Fair will be held from October to November in the China Import and Export Complex (Asia’s largest exhibition center) in Guangzhou. You will find the schedule of each phase here.

Each phase displays different industries. The 2nd phase includes furniture products. Aside from exhibitors from Hong-Kong and Mainland China, international exhibitors also attend the Canton Fair. It is among the largest wholesale furniture trade shows with over 180,000 visitors. Aside from furniture, you will find a wide array of product categories in the fair including the following:

  • Home decorations
  • General ceramics
  • Household items
  • Kitchenware & tableware
  • Furniture

China International Furniture Expo


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This is a trade exhibition event where you can find reputable furniture, interior design, and premium material business partners. This international contemporary furniture fair and vintage furniture fair takes place once a year every September in Shanghai, China. It is held at the same location and time as the Furniture Manufacturing & Supply (FMC) China exhibition so you can go to both events.

The China National Furniture Association organizes the expo where thousands or furniture exporters and brands from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and other international countries participate. This allows you to explore a wide variety of furniture categories to match your specific needs:

  • Upholstery furniture
  • European classical furniture
  • Chinese classical furniture
  • Mattresses
  • Children’s furniture
  • Table & chair
  • Outdoor & garden furniture and accessories
  • Office furniture
  • Contemporary furniture

#1 Order Quantity


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Regardless of what furniture you are going to buy, it is important to consider your manufacturer’s Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ). This is the lowest number of items that a China furniture wholesaler is willing to sell. Some manufacturers will have high MOQs while others will have lower values.

In the furniture industry, the MOQ depends greatly on the products and the factory. For instance, a bed manufacturer may have a 5-unit MOQ while a beach chair manufacturer may have a 1,000-unit MOQ. Moreover, there are 2 MOQ types in the furniture industry which are based on:

  • Container volume
  • Number of items

There are factories that are willing to set lower MOQs if you are also willing to buy furniture from China made from standard materials such as wood.

Bulk Order

For bulk orders, some top China furniture manufacturers set high MOQs but will offer their products at lower prices. However, there are instances that small to medium importers are not able to reach these prices. Some Chinese furniture suppliers are flexible though and can give you discounted prices if you order different furniture types.

Retail Order

If you are going to buy in retail quantities, make sure to ask your supplier whether the furniture you want is in stock because it will be easier to buy. However, the price will be 20% to 30% higher compared to wholesale prices.

#2 Payment


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There are 3 of the most common payment options you need to consider:

  • Letter of Credit (LoC)

The first payment method is LoC - a type of payment in which your bank settles your payment with the seller once you provide them the required documents. They will only process the payment once they have verified that you have met certain conditions. Because your bank takes full responsibility for your payments, the only thing you need to work on is the required documents.

Moreover, LoC is among the safest payment methods. It is usually used for payments of more than $50,000. The only downside is it requires a lot of paperwork with your bank that might also charge you exorbitant fees.

  • Open Account

This is the most popular payment method when dealing with international businesses. You will only make the payment once your orders have been shipped and delivered to you. Obviously, the open account payment method gives the most advantage to you as an importer when it comes to cost and cash flow. 

  • Documentary Collection

Documentary collection payment is like the cash on delivery method where your bank works with your manufacturer’s bank for the collection of the payment. The goods can be delivered before or after the payment is processed, depending on what documentary collection method was used.

Since all transactions are done by banks wherein your bank acts as your payment agent, documentary collection methods pose less risk to sellers compared to open account methods. They are also more affordable compared to LoCs.

#3 Shipment Management

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Once the payment method has been settled by you and your furniture supplier, the next step is to know your shipping options. When you import any goods from China, not only furniture, you can ask your supplier to manage the shipping. If you are a first-time importer, this would be the simplest option. However, expect to pay more. If you want to save money and time, below are your other shipping options:

  • Handle the Shipping Yourself

If you choose this option, you need to book cargo space yourself with shipping companies and manage Customs Declarations both in your country and in China. You need to monitor the cargo carrier and deal with them yourself. Thus, it consumes a lot of time. Plus, it is not recommended for small to medium importers. But if you have enough manpower, you can go for this option.

  • Having a Freight Forwarder to Handle Shipment

In this option, you can either have a freight forwarder in your country, in China, or in both locations to handle the shipment:
  • In China - this would be the fastest method if you want to receive your cargo in a short time. It is used by most importers and it has the most affordable rates.
  • In Your Country - For small to medium importers, this would be the most ideal option. It is more convenient but can be expensive and inefficient. 
  • In Your Country & in China - In this option, you will be the one who will contact both the freight forwarder sending and receiving your shipment.

#4 Packaging Options

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You will have different packaging options depending on how large your cargo is. Products imported from Chinese furniture manufacturers that are shipped via sea freight are usually stored in 20x40 containers. A 250-square meter cargo can fit in these containers. You can opt for full cargo load (FCL) or loose cargo load (LCL) based on your cargo’s volume.

  • FCL

If your cargo is five pallets or more, it is wise to have them shipped via FCL. If you have fewer pallets but still want to protect your furniture from other cargoes, shipping them via FCL is also a good idea.

  • LCL

For cargoes with lesser volumes, shipping them through LCL is the most practical option. Your cargo will be grouped with other cargoes. But if you are going to go for LCL packaging, make sure to load your furniture with other dry ware products such as sanitary wares, lights, floor tiles, and others.

Take note that a lot of international carriers have limited liabilities for cargo damages. The usual amount is $500 for every container. We recommend getting insurance for your cargo since your imported products are likely to have more value, especially if you bought from luxury furniture manufacturers.

#5 Delivery


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For the delivery of your products, you can choose whether it will be via sea freight or air freight.

  • By Sea

When buying furniture from China, the mode of delivery is usually through sea freight. After your imported products arrive at the port, they will be delivered by rail to an area closer to your location. After that, a truck will normally transport your products to the final delivery location.

  • By Air

If your store requires immediate replenishment because of high inventory turnover, it would be better to deliver by air freight. However, this delivery model is only for small volumes. Although it is more expensive compared to sea freight, it is faster.

Transit Time

When ordering Chinese-style furniture, you need to consider how long your supplier will prepare your products along with the transit time. Chinese suppliers often have delayed deliveries. The transit time is a different process so there is a big chance that it will take a long time before you receive your products.

The transit time usually takes 14-50 days when importing to the United States plus a few days for the customs clearance process. This doesn’t include delays caused by unexpected circumstances like bad weather. Thus, your orders from China might arrive after approximately 3 months.

Regulations to Import Furniture From China


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The last thing we are going to tackle is the US and European Union regulations that apply to imported furniture from China.

United States

In the United States, there are three regulations you need to follow:

#1 Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)


There are wooden furniture products regulated by the APHIS. These products include the following categories:
  • Toddler beds
  • Bunk beds
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Children’s furniture

Below are a few of APHIS’ requirements that you need to know when importing Chinese furniture to the US:
  • Approval for pre-import is required
  • Fumigation and heat treatment is mandatory
  • You should purchase from APHIS-approved companies only

#2 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)


CPSIA includes rules applying to all products for children (12 years old and below). You should be aware of the following major requirements:
  • Registration card for specific products
  • Testing lab
  • Children’s Product Certificate (CPC)
  • CPSIA tracking label
  • Mandatory ASTM lab testing

European Union

If you are importing to Europe, you must comply with REACH’s regulations and EU’s fire safety standards.

#1 Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)

REACH aims to protect the environment and human health from dangerous chemicals, pollutants, and heavy metals by putting restrictions on all products sold in Europe. These include furniture products.

Products containing large amounts of substances like AZO or lead dyes are illegal. We recommend that you get your furniture cover lab-tested, including the PVC, PU, and fabrics before you import from China.

#2 Fire Safety Standards


The majority of EU states have different fire safety standards but below are the major EN standards:
  • EN 14533
  • EN 597-2
  • EN 597-1
  • EN 1021-2
  • EN 1021-1

However, take note that these requirements will depend on how you will use the furniture. It is different when you use the products commercially (for restaurants and hotels) and domestically (for residential applications).

Conclusion

While you have a lot of manufacturer choices in China, remember that every manufacturer specializes in a single furniture category. For instance, if you need a living room, dining room, and bedroom furniture, you need to find multiple suppliers that manufacture each product. Visiting furniture fairs is the perfect way to achieve this task.

Importing products and buying furniture from China is not an easy process, but once you have familiarized yourself with the basics, you can buy anything you want from the country effortlessly. Hopefully, this guide was able to fill you with all of the knowledge you need to start with your own furniture business.



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