Billions of dollars in furniture is imported into the United States each year. Many of today’s furniture imports come from China. Furniture imported from China is in growing demand for furniture dealers. Consumers appreciate the good quality and affordable price points of Chinese-made furniture. Learn how to import furniture to grow your business.
Furniture is heavy. It is wise to ship the furniture you import on pallets for easy unloading. Furniture is usually wrapped in plastic and then packed in cartons for shipping. Furniture you buy in China or abroad is usually shipped via sea freight. Cargo shipped overseas is held in 20 by 40 feet containers.
China is the world’s largest furniture exporter. Furniture from China is often handcrafted without nails or glue. This means Chinese furniture can last a lifetime and beyond. Many furniture sellers visit China to buy furniture at wholesale prices. China has an entire city dedicated to furniture manufacturers and wholesale. The city of Shunde located in the Guangdong Province is home to a furniture mall for wholesalers. Shunde is known as “Furniture City.” Shunde is well connected to Hong Kong and this makes importing furniture from China easy. Other places to buy furniture in China include:
If you cannot personally visit Shunde or another market, you can use a sourcing agent to buy furniture for you. A sourcing agent will reach out to a variety of suppliers and/or manufacturers. Then he or she will find the furniture you need, buy it, and make a commission on the sale.
You can import furniture for every room in the home from Chinese and international sources. Common furniture imports can include:
Regardless of the kind of furniture you buy, you might need to consider the wholesaler’s minimum order quantity (MOQ). Some furniture manufacturers have a high MOQ; others have a low MOQ.
You need to follow a few special rules when importing wood furniture. These rules help deter illegal logging and protect the U.S. from invasive species of insects.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) oversees the import of timber and wood products. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires all wood entering the country to be inspected. Imported wood must also undergo sanitization procedures. Wood sanitizing processes can prevent non-native pests from entering the country.
APHIS suggests heat or chemical treatment to sanitize wood. Heat treatment involves treating the wood in a kiln or energy dryer. Chemical treatment involves treating wood with a surface pesticide.
Is your furniture made from an endangered species of wood? If so, you’ll need to follow rules related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES rules require that:
Wood furniture imported from China is also subject to anti-dumping duties. According to rules set in place by the Tariff Act of 1930, the U.S. government can place tariffs on goods sold at less than market value and “dumped” on U.S. markets. Furniture imported from China is often less expensive than U.S. manufactured furniture and that makes anti-dumping rules apply. Wood furniture imported from China is often subject to these extra duties. There are some exceptions, however. For example, wooden headboards and nightstands are subject to extra duties. Tables and mattresses are not.
Another commodity that can be subject to additional duties is aluminum. Read our guide on how to import aluminum from China to get the information you need.
Importing furniture from Chinese and international sources isn’t like buying from a domestic supplier. There are three basic payment options to consider:
The most common method of payment for furniture imported from China is the letter of credit. It’s also important to be aware of fluctuating currency exchanges when paying your supplier. Even if the price quote you are given is in U.S. dollars, the cost is likely based on the supplier’s currency.
After paying for your furniture, you will need to arrange shipping.
You will likely fit an entire home’s worth of furniture and then some in a 40-foot container. A full container load holds approximately 800 square feet or 2400 cubic feet. A 40-foot container payload capacity is 61,200 lbs.
If your furniture cargo is at least five pallets, a good option is to ship them through full cargo load (FCL). If your cargo is of a lesser volume, the most ideal option is through loose cargo load (LCL). This means your cargo will share container space will other cargoes. You can share cargo space with other dry wares.
Many international ocean carriers have a limited liability for cargo damage. This is usually $500 per container. Because your imported furniture is likely valued at more, you will likely want to have cargo insurance. Your insurance company can help you with this.
After your imported furniture arrives at a seaport, it might be shipped by rail to a location closer to you. From there it might be shipped on a truck.
Some wood furniture requires a permit for import. Other furniture does not require a permit. However, you will need to complete customs paperwork. You will be responsible for paying customs duties. A Licensed Customs Broker can help you with the paperwork.
If you are importing furniture, you will need to pay customs duties. Customs duty varies by item, but are generally between zero and five percent for those importing furniture to the U.S. You Licensed Customs Broker can help you determine customs duty fees.
There are two other fees that might apply to furniture shipped by sea. You might need to pay the Harbor Maintenance Fee and the Merchandise Processing Fee. Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you navigate these waters.
When you import furniture from China, you should think about the time it takes for the manufacturer or wholesaler to prepare your order and the transit time. Generally speaking, transit time between the U.S. and China takes 14 to 50 days, including customs clearance. This does not include delays due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. With this in mind, you should estimate that your shipment of imported furniture will arrive in 2-3 months.
If you are shipping small amounts of furniture from China, you might use air freight. Air freight is more expensive but much faster. Working with Your Licensed Customs Broker can help you decide which option is best for you.
Are you still confused about how to import furniture? Make it easy on yourself and contact USA Customs Clearance today. Our Licensed Customs Brokers handle your furniture shipping needs.
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