Suggestion: Watch the 10 minutes video tutorial before reading this article
Looking to import outdoor furniture from manufacturers in China? Then keep reading, to learn more about the different types of outdoor furniture, and how you can find highly qualified factories on Alibaba.com and Globalsources.com.
In addition, you will also learn how to deal with furniture sample orders, trade shows, product regulations – and alternative manufacturing countries, such as Vietnam and India.
Types of Outdoor Furniture in China
China is how to thousands of outdoor furniture manufacturers. However, even within this segment, factories, and wholesalers are always specialized in a certain type of outdoor furniture.
Below follows an overview of common categories:
- Rattan Furniture
- Wicker Furniture
- Wooden Furniture
- Metal Furniture
- Garden Sofas
- Outdoor Tables
- Patio Swings
- Beach Chairs
Some manufacturers offer products that belong in two or even three categories. The suppliers in each category also tend to be grouped together in certain industrial clusters – such as Foshan, in the southern Guangdong province.
Sourcing Outdoor Furniture suppliers and wholesalers on Alibaba.com
Alibaba.com is the world’s largest B2B supplier directory. Here, you will find thousands of outdoor furniture factories, wholesalers and trading companies.
In my opinion, you should narrow down your supplier selection to those that are proper manufacturers, rather than trading companies or wholesalers.
The easiest way to be sure, is by flying to China and paying the suppliers a visit. But, you can also use information provided by Alibaba.com to narrow down your supplier list:
- Registered capital: Minimum RMB 500,000
- Product scope: Should be focused within a certain category
- Company name: Should not include ‘trading’
Some manufacturers also provide factory audit reports on their Alibaba.com profile, which are free to download. These are issued by highly reputable third parties, such as SGS or Bureau Veritas.
In addition, you should also look out for uploaded product test reports, or other compliance documents – especially if you’re importing outdoor furniture to the United States or Europe.
Other sourcing options
Alibaba.com may be the largest directory, but it’s not the only one. Hong Kong based Globalsources.com is the second largest supplier directory, and provide supplier data in the same way that Alibaba.com does.
Globalsources.com has also branded itself as a ‘quality supplier directory’, which holds true for many product categories.
If you’re planning to import rattan furniture, or other home products, you should definitely search for suppliers on Globalsources.com.
Should we buy product samples?
No, furniture samples are too costly to produce and ship. Assuming you would buy 5 pcs of outdoor furniture samples, you should expect to pay at least $1000 – $1400 in shipping costs.
Even without considering the cost of furniture samples, you’ll end up paying more to ship the samples over from China, compared to if you book a flight and review samples on site.
What to think about when visiting suppliers
Virtually all outdoor furniture factories in China have sample showrooms. Small factories might only have a few products to show, but larger manufacturers tend to have showrooms with more than 100 different products.
Your goal with a supplier visit is to assess if the factory is qualified and select products.
Use this checklist when you visit the factory:
a. Are they specialized in your product category? If you’re buying rattan furniture, the supplier should primarily manufacture exactly that.
b. Are they manufacturing for other customers? It’s a good sign if they have regular orders from other importers.
c. What kind of customers do they have? Suppliers that focus on Western buyer’s tend to have a higher overall quality (and prices, of course)
d. How do they manage defective units? Are they willing to show you where they store defective units?
e. How do they pack the product?
f. Is the warehouse full? Do you recognize any brands printed on the export cartons in their warehouse?
But, you’re also there to identify suitable products:
a. Ask for a product specification or data sheet, with dimensions, bill of materials and material specification, for the furniture samples that you find in the showroom.
b Can they offer other materials?
c. Do they have design drawings?
d. Can you customize the design? If yes, what design drawing formats do they prefer?
e. Will design customization result in additional tooling costs?
f. What is the MOQ?
g. What is the unit price?
Reminder: Most outdoor furniture SKUs can be manufactured, based on different quality standards. As such, you must confirm all specifications before you ask for a price.
Keep in mind that it’s very hard to confirm the specifications once you have left the factory and the showroom, so don’t depart without a complete spec sheet.
Before you move on to the next supplier, you should also ask them the following:
a. What is their production time?
b. Do they have any product test reports?
c. Do they implement any quality management system? (i.e., ISO 9001:2008)
d. Do they have any export license?
e. Which bank account will you pay to? (ask for complete details)
f. What are their payment terms?
g. Which payment terms do they offer?
h. Do they accept pre-shipment quality inspections?
Notice that you will need a visa to enter Mainland China, with the exception of Shenzhen. You can ask your supplier to provide an invitation letter, that you can use to apply for a business visa.
Product Spec Case Study: Rattan Chair
Use this template to better understand what you must include in your product specification:
a. Dimensions: W60*D70*H86CM
b. Frame: Aluminum
– Tube dimensions: 35 x 35 x 1.3 mm
– Powder coating: Yes (Anti-corrosion)
c. Rattan: PE, 5 mm diameter
– Color: Black
– Type: S5518
– UV resistance: Yes (Up to 5000 h)
d. Max load: 140 kgs
e. Cushion: Yes
– Thickness: 50 mm
– Material: 200 gsm polyester
Most suppliers in this industry are not that organized. They tend to lack standardized product documentation, and may not even know which materials and components their showroom samples are made of.
As such, you need to identify all relevant product specifications, and request the supplier to confirm each one.
Trade Shows in Mainland China and Hong Kong
Don’t fancy traveling to factories on your own? Then a good first step might be to visit a furniture trade show in Mainland China or Hong Kong.
There are several large trade shows for furniture each year, such as the Canton Fair in Guangzhou.
Below follows an overview of trade shows that are relevant to outdoor furniture importers:
- HKTDC Hong Kong Houseware Fair
- International Design and Furniture Fair Hong Kong
- Global Sources Gifts & Home
- Furniture China 2018 (Shanghai)
- China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou)
- Canton Fair Phase 2 (Guangzhou)
Place your orders early to avoid missing the season
In the United States and Europe, outdoor furniture is highly seasonal. This is a major headache for outdoor furniture buyers, as a 30 days delay can be disastrous.
There are no silver bullets here. Instead, you need to plan for delays, and place your order very early.
Assuming you have a delivery deadline for May 1st, you should use the following timeline as a reference:
- Last day to place an order: October 1st
- Production completed: December 10th (After a 15 day delay)
- Quality checks completed: December 15th
- Balance payment received: December 20th
- Container loading: December 22nd
- Shipping: December 31st
- Cargo arrival in port: February 5th
- Final delivery: February 10th
Notice that this timeline estimates a deliver several months before the delivery deadline in May. This is due to the disruption caused by the Chinese new year holiday.
Assume that you miss the final shipment date in late January or early February. In this scenario, production will not resume (or perhaps not even start) until early March – which makes it impossible to deliver on time.
If you plan to sell wicker or rattan furniture the coming spring and summer, then you must make sure that the containers arrive before the Chinese New Year.
This in turn requires that you place your order in October, or even earlier.
Some factories may have a limited selection of off-shelf wholesale products, but don’t count on it.
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) Requirements
Before you even consider visiting an outdoor furniture factory, you must ask them about their MOQ. The minimum order varies greatly between suppliers in this industry.
Some factories are very strict and require that you order a 40’’ container per furniture model. That may not be a lot for IKEA, but it is most likely far beyond what you intend to buy.
Some suppliers are more flexible, and allow for orders low as 3 to 4 units per SKU.
Others require that you fill an entire 20’’ container, but allow you to mix different SKUs.
If you are a small volume buyer, you should not bother with factories that have MOQs beyond what you can reach.
You can try to negotiate, but there are limits to how much they’re willing to lower the MOQ requirement.
Product regulations in the United States and European Union
Compared to many other products, furniture regulations are relatively lax. There are, however, a few things to consider:
a. Upholstered furniture and tents must (in some US states and EU countries) be fire retardant. Such regulations include TB 117.
b. Different regulations may apply to furniture used for domestic use, compared to those used commercially (i.e., restaurants and hotels).
c. Substance regulations, such as REACH and CA Prop 65, are technically applicable to furniture (both materials and coatings). That said, most suppliers are unfamiliar with chemical and heavy metals restrictions, as the furniture industry is not targeted until recently.
d. In the United States and Canada, need to label products with the country of origin. This is normally printed on the carton, and in all marketing materials.
Before you import outdoor furniture, you need to confirm which regulations apply in your country or state.
Outdoor furniture suppliers in Vietnam, Thailand and India
There are many qualified outdoor furniture manufacturers in other countries, especially in Vietnam, Thailand and India.
Suppliers in each country have direct access to different types of woods, and other materials, so you can find many unique products in these markets.
Below follows an overview of relevant trade shows in Vietnam, Thailand and India:
- VIFA Expo (Vietnam)
- Thailand International Furniture Fair (TIFF)
- International Furniture Fair Singapore
- India International Furniture Fair (IIFF)
- India Furniture Expo (IFEX)
Do you want to import Outdoor Furniture?
It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package for Furniture & Home Products:
a. Manufacturer Lists
b. Product Specification Templates
c. Label Samples (USA & EU)
d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process
In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.