How to Import Furniture Hardware from China in 6 Steps: The Ultimate Guide

furniture hardware packed in the box
Source: Maxave

Whether you are just beginning your furniture business or already have a well-established furniture hardware corporation, this blog will help you safely choose and transport your valuable products at the lowest possible cost. 

Minimize costs and be aware of hidden fees by learning how to import furniture hardware from China. You will also know where and how to find high-quality, durable furniture products guaranteed to fit your branding. This blog will guide you on finding the best suppliers in China, what freight shipping methods are best suited for your business, and how to import them into your country without paying hidden fees, including taxes and customs.

Step 1: Select Products to Import

Person typing on a laptop
Source: Unsplash

To start or grow your furniture business, you must first understand what furniture and hardware accessories you want to sell. 

To do that, you can search for suppliers on Google or use directories like Alibaba, GlobalSources, DH Gate, and AliExpress to immediately access thousands of manufacturers and find wholesale products from China wherever you may be. 

Find what you’re looking for by specifying the following information:

  1. 1. Product’s name 
  2. 2. Brand
  3. 3. Price
  4. 4. Material
  5. 5. Quantity
  6. 6. Color
  7. 7. Weight
  8. 8. Thickness
  9. 9. Dimensions
  10. 10. Other specifications

Remember to be as specific as possible when providing product details. Save an image of your ideal product to clear out expectations and prevent miscommunication when it is time to talk to a supplier, more on that in the next step.

Additionally, here is a list of the five steps you can take to find only the BEST products to sell for your furniture business:

  1. 1. Subscribe to different furniture newsletters to stay updated on popular furniture trends, find inspiration on new hardware to furnish, generate new ideas to adapt for your furniture business, and always have products to sell! No need to be a genius and reinvent the next best furniture of 2023. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from others. By following newsletters and other brands, you will stay on top of what your competitors are doing, helping you make better and more innovative furniture products that stand out from the rest. 
  2. 2. Find products that you won’t find in your local stores. If you’re looking to import from China, make it worth the money by buying the products you can’t easily access in your community or country. Find something customers need but don’t have because your corporation will be the first to release it in your local market. 
  3. 3. Use the Facebook ads library and search for the product ads of your competitor brands. If the product performs well on Facebook, that’s a good sign that it is in demand, and you’ll make a profit by importing it from China to your country.
  4. 4. Find similar products through Amazon’s search engine. Amazon shows the number of quantities sold. You can refer to this data to identify profitable and not profitable products. 
  5. 5. Take note when the competitor’s products are always out of stock. This is a good sign that the product is precious to your target audience. Follow the demand and analyze the engagement (comments, likes, shares) and positive reviews. Take inspiration from what the competitor’s product lacks to give you an idea of what product to buy and what to improve on.

Step 2: Find Chinese Wholesale Suppliers

Asian hardware factory
Source: Maxave

Once you’ve found profitable furniture hardware to import, it is time to seek an experienced and dedicated supplier in China from where you will source your product.

Find a Chinese supplier by following these three simple steps:

  1. 1. Find suppliers and direct manufacturers through Alibaba, Global Sources Exhibitions, or directories. Alibaba has a more straightforward process and offers packages at a lower price because there are no middlemen. There, you can find an assortment of wholesale furniture hardware. However, even though Alibaba has more suppliers, the products are usually lower in quality, and the whole process could take weeks. Meanwhile, you can find high-quality vendors through the Global Sources Exhibitions, but it comes with higher MOQs (Minimum Order Quantity).
  2. 2. There are more options than Alibaba and Global Sources Exhibitions. Do background research on corporations. Compare the reliability, experience, certifications, values, prices, and services of different manufacturing companies that offer the furniture hardware in your brand and niche by searching for the product and exploring Google.
  3. 3. When you’re ready, send an email or a simple message. Call them, use Facetime, or book a video call. Connect and build a relationship. You will know better when you communicate through calls than with texts. By calling, you can ask your questions and receive immediate feedback. See where they’re working (do they work from their basement, or do they have a real company?). Identify if you like and agree with the supplier’s attitude and values. Find a company you want to build long-lasting, meaningful partnerships with.

Also, here are six tips to remember when finding and communicating with a Chinese supplier:

  1. 1. Instead of finding a manufacturer, find a supplier (or a company that does both!). When you work with a supplier, you can speak with them anytime. Suppliers have a wealthy list of connections which helps them to stay on top of your orders and allows them to talk from company to company and manufacturer to manufacturer. Through these connections, you are ensured that you are always supported in the importing process. Suppliers will be the ones to handle the logistics from production and manufacturing to transportation to different ports. 
  2. 2. Meanwhile, manufacturers are busy producing for you and many other businesses. When things get complicated, and you encounter issues in customs and transportation, you will most likely have to handle it on your own because helping you with logistics is no longer a part of their job. Unlike most manufacturers, a supplier will help you to form a mutually beneficial relationship. As your business grows, they grow as well. That’s why, if you want someone who will focus on your business’s importing needs, contact a supplier. Get the best of both worlds by contacting Maxave! Maxave will help manufacture and supply your customized furniture to ensure your business stays at the top of its game. Unlike other manufacturers, Maxave has a responsive team ready to support you from the beginning of the manufacturing process until the delivery of your products!
  3. 3. Always speak slowly and, whenever possible, type out the words to let the Chinese suppliers understand what you’re talking about. Chinese business people understand English much better through reading than listening. Type it down, and don’t talk quickly. 
  4. 4. Chinese business people are hardly confrontational. They rarely correct and interrupt you as they are cultivated as polite and accepting individuals. Make sure there are clear understandings by being as specific as possible about your order down to the tiniest detail. 
  5. 5. Contracts are almost meaningless in China. Expect the agreements and terms on pricing to change when Chinese suppliers want them changed. 
  6. 6. Refrain from assuming that the suppliers know what you want. Be as specific as possible unless you want them to cut corners. Avoid miscommunication and poor quality by specifying your product’s price, material, quantity, color, weight, thickness, dimensions, and other specifications. Chinese vendors will meet your provided price point by reducing quality—state every detail. Everything not spelled out could be made incorrectly, so communicate wisely. Go the extra mile by providing reference photos from similar brands or products to be used only as inspiration.

Step 3: Purchase Products

Man making a purchase online via a credit card
Source: Unsplash

Now that you’ve found a reliable Chinese supplier to work with and communicated the details of your order, it is time to purchase your product. 

Before purchasing, you must first understand these six essential concepts:

  1. 1. MOQ or minimum order quantities refer to the minimum number of units you need to purchase to avail of the product. Don’t waste money on unnecessarily large product quantities by choosing a supplier with the lowest MOQ. Some suppliers sell thousands of units per wholesale order, while others sell hundreds at a time. Ask for the MOQ if it isn’t already stated in the description box. Remember that the price-per-unit usually gets cheaper as you order more units, so use that to your advantage when identifying the number of units to order. 
  2. 2. Negotiate the price. Ask if the manufacturers can lower their costs. Once an agreement has been made, record the final price.
  3. 3. Companies like Alibaba use a payment protection service called “trade assurance” to guarantee that you get the furniture products you ordered as specified. Otherwise, you get your money back as protection from ill-intentioned scammers. If there’s a problem with the package, Alibaba can intervene to ensure you get your money back. 
  4. 4. Ensure the product being bought isn’t banned from being imported to your country.
  5. 5. For large orders, hire a third-party inspection company to guarantee your products’ quality, completeness, and safety before they depart the factory.
  6. 6. Don’t sacrifice quality for low prices. A single negative review from an unsatisfied customer will forever taint your brand’s reputation. Remember that you will never profit from bad products. Stop wasting money and time by investing in quality hardware that meets your target audience’s needs. 

Step 4: Arrange Cargo Transport

Image of a cargo ship in the middle of the sea
Source: Unsplash

To import the purchased furniture hardware to your country, you must choose a shipping method suitable to your product’s weight and your business’ urgency. Freight shipping refers to transporting purchased goods from one area to another in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way possible. Shipping requires tremendous care. 

Cargo can be delivered in 3 main ways:

Air Freight

Air freight shipping refers to transferring goods using airplanes. Many importers prefer air freight over other methods, mainly because it is the fastest method of cargo delivery. Additionally, it has the widest global reach and the most accurate delivery times. 

However, despite its perks, it has the steepest price point among all shipping methods. And if you’re shipping larger volumes of furniture hardware, air freight might not be ideal due to its strict weight limits.

Ocean Freight

Ocean freight shipping involves the use of boats for the transportation of cargo. Be careful with ocean freight shipping. Although it is said to be five to six times cheaper than air shipping, you will be surprised by the extra costs that would be added by the time the package arrives at the port. 

The shipping itself is cheap, but additional taxes and customs fees must also be accounted for when choosing a shipping option. Nevertheless, this shipping method is still recommended for large volumes of goods that don’t need to be delivered for at least one month. 

Rail Freight

Rail freight transport uses trucks or rail trains to deliver products. This option can deliver faster than sea freight and can transport large volumes of furniture hardware in one go. Plus, if opting for road service via truck, you can have it delivered right to your warehouse.

One detriment to rail freight is that it’s limited to continental transport – meaning it can only deliver within nearby countries. Other challenges for this delivery method include border control, change in train operators, and inclement weather. 

Before settling on a shipping method, you should also understand the following concepts:

  • FCL (full container load) should be used when you want to take up the space of an entire container.
  • LCL (less than container load) should be used when you want to take up as little space as possible without harming the package. To do this, cargo is consolidated. In other words, the area of a container will be filled with products owned by a variety of people. The space will be shared with other buyers who want to ship to your country simultaneously to reduce shipping costs. 
  • The dimensions of a container are measured in cubic meters—the greater the CBM of your package, the greater the price. Usually, the supplier will be the one to provide the CBM of your package.
  • Pallets are the most commonly used packaging type. It is a 40×48-inch wooden platform that packages items that don’t need to be enclosed intensively. Using this can reduce the risk of damage to your shipment, especially the bottom part. 
  • Crates are a stackable packaging type that is more protected than pallets. It is easy to use, and it is enclosed on all sides.
  • Freight class and reference numbers are needed when filling a Bill of Lading. Let professional carriers help you figure it out.

To be eligible for importation, you must accomplish a Bill of Lading. 

Secure a shipping service and create a Bill of Lading by providing the following information: 

  1. 1. Names
  2. 2. Addresses
  3. 3. Pickup date
  4. 4. Dimensions
  5. 5. Number of units
  6. 6. Weight
  7. 7. Material
  8. 8. Components
  9. 9. Packaging Type (pallets, drums, crates, cartons)
  10. Unique reference numbers. 

Once you’ve made a Bill of Lading, you can connect with a freight forwarder instead of shipping the goods directly to your country to save on tremendous shipping costs. 

  • Freight forwarders are experienced professionals who can help transport your cargo from China to your preferred location at the lowest possible cost.
  • Different freight forwarders will offer different services. Some offers warehouse to warehouse delivery, door-to-door, or warehouse-to-port. Freight forwarders also follow a variety of rules and regulations.
  • Communicate about your situation, preferences, and cargo to ensure that the freight forwarder’s services can cater to your furniture hardware business needs.
  • Provide the address of the warehouse of the supplier to help them identify which of their warehouse is nearest to your supplier to cut on local shipping fees.

What happens during freight forwarding? 

  1. 1. The Chinese supplier will first deliver your package to the freight forwarder’s warehouse in China (local shipping fee).
  2. 2. Once the freight forwarder receives your package, it will be consolidated into a container to reduce fees.
  3. 3. The freight forwarder will transport your business’ furniture hardware from the China warehouse to your country’s warehouse. 
  4. 4. Transporting goods from one country to another will always require taxes and customs fees. Ask the forwarder if clearing customs is part of their service’s package to be aware of potential hidden costs and prevent miscommunication. 
  5. 5. Let the freight forwarder deliver the goods from the warehouse to your company for convenience. However, you can also pick it up from their warehouse. Doing so will, of course, cost you valuable time, money, and energy.

Before committing to an authorized carrier or freight forwarder, here are nine things you must consider: 

  1. 1. Verify the carrier’s authority. You need the number issued to them by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and their MC number. The Department of Transportation must authorize the carrier. Usually, freight forwarders and freight brokers only need MC numbers to operate. Look up their credentials using the numbers or company names.
  2. 2. Negotiate and make sure you are clear on your terms. Which shipping fees would be initially shouldered by the forwarder, and which would be paid by you? If there’s a problem with the product, will they be the ones to take responsibility? Usually, the buyer will be the one to shoulder the local shipping fee and product damages.
  3. 3. Verify your carrier’s cargo insurance. Cargo insurance refers to the minimum amount of insurance carried out by authorized freight providers to protect both parties from unfortunate events like damaged goods during shipping. If your goods are easily damaged, ask for additional insurance from a trusted third-party insurance provider for that extra layer of shipping protection.
  4. 4. Every movement of your shipment and every storage it takes costs money. Cut costs by choosing the freight forwarder with the shortest trip.
  5. 5. Ensure that the carrier has a proven record of transporting cargo safely and that they can be responsible for the loss, damage, or theft of parcels by looking at the company’s claims-to-damage ratio. Their claims-to-damage ratio must be below 1.5%.
  6. 6. Check the feedback of previous customers. A good track record and reputation prove that they can provide satisfactory service for your shipment and business. 
  7. 7. Consider if the forwarder’s expertise and services fit your shipment. Is your cargo extra fragile? Will you ship in small amounts or bulk? Do you want these products to be delivered immediately? Do you need to refrigerate these shipments? Do you need special equipment like lifts or cranes to transfer these products from one place to another? Do you want to ship large numbers of heavy materials for your business consistently? Whatever the case, you should find a forwarder with a service that specializes in importing products similar to yours. Their experience handling identical products and garnering positive feedback from previous clients is a good sign that they will be able to meet your unique entrepreneurial needs!
  8. 8. Warehouses aren’t always equipped with shipping docks where shipping is received. Familiarise yourself with the forwarder’s facilities. Are hydraulic lifts, forklifts, booms, or cranes needed to transport your hardware safely? Mentioning these amenities could save you from miscommunication and added fees. Meanwhile, failing to account for this information may result in a steeper price point. 
  9. 9. Lastly, be specific about the details, methods, packaging, weights, and measurements of the shipment to avoid damaged goods, shipment delays, and hidden shipping fees. 

Step 5: Clear Your Shipment Through Customs

A pair of people filling out paperwork
Source: Unsplash

Customs clearance can be a complex stage when importing from China. You must prepare specific documentation and follow appropriate procedures to avoid shipment delays and additional fees. In the worst-case scenario, the package could arrive at the port, but it will be detained, examined, or sold if you fail to properly clear your shipment through Customs.

Processing customs can be overwhelming and complicated. It can drain your time to understand and handle these procedures. Thus, working with a reliable customs agent is customary to make things easier for you and your business. The expertise of a customs agent will also be valuable to your furniture hardware business if you have urgent shipping requirements that you need on a routine basis. 

Don’t waste your time handling Customs issues such as:

  • Misclassification
  • High duty feesLabelingg issues
  • Inadequate documentation
  • Improper packing
  • Delayed shipments
  • Safety difficulties. 

Focus on growing your business by talking to a Customs Agent. 

If you can’t work with a Customs Agent, you can try following these steps to resolve customs problems.

  1. 1. Seek help from the importer.
  2. 2. Solve the problem with your shipping company. 
  3. 3. Ask the insurance company for actions to take.
  4. 4. Call the customs office.

Step 6: Process Imported Goods for Sale

Package being loaded on a delivery truck
Source: Unsplash

The final step is to market your imported furniture hardware to your physical or online stores by doing this 4-stage process:

  1. 1. Price the products
  2. 2. Publish product listings by writing clear, captivating product descriptions and photos that demonstrate the features of your furniture hardware.
  3. 3. Manage your business’ inventory
  4. 4. Fulfill clients’ orders!

Most business people disregard the value of product descriptions. Without a compelling description that clearly states the benefits of the products, your clients won’t think twice about leaving and looking for a better product. 

Make sure to include these things to craft compelling product descriptions for your furniture hardware business:

  • What’s in it for them – The description should be customer-centered. Avoid talking about who you are and what the product is that you forget to highlight what the customer’s life would be like with the product on their side.
  • Features – The parts and characteristics that make up the product or service.
  • Advantages – How the feature can help a customer.
  • Benefits –  The outcome. How the features will improve the situation of the consumer.
  • Pain points – Problems faced by the target audience.

Conclusion

Sourcing quality products from China should be a smooth and simple process. By understanding these six practical steps and taking action accordingly, you’re on your way to increasing the profits of your hardware business by importing furniture hardware from China at the lowest possible cost.

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