China, known as the world’s largest exporter of goods, does not lack factories producing roughly every type of furniture at competitive prices. As the demand for furniture increases, importers are willing to search for suppliers that offer high-quality products for relatively low prices. However, importers in the United States should pay particular attention to issues such as duty rates or safety regulations. In this article, we give some tips on how to excel in importing furniture from China to the US.
Furniture production areas in China
Generally speaking, there are four main manufacturing areas in China: the Pearl River delta (in the south of China), the Yangtze River delta (the central coastal region of China), the West Triangle (in central China), and the Bohai Sea region (the north coastal area of China).
All these areas feature a vast amount of furniture manufacturers. However, there are considerable differences:
- The Pearl River delta – specializes in top quality, comparably more expensive furniture, offers a variety of furniture types. Cities of international renown include Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Dongguan (famous for manufacturing sofas), Zhongshan (furniture of redwood), and Foshan (furniture of sawn wood). Foshan enjoys widespread fame as the manufacturing hub for dining furniture, flat-packed furniture, and general furniture. There are also thousands of furniture wholesalers there, concentrated mainly in the Shunde district of the city, e.g., in the China Furniture Whole Sale Market.
- The Yangtze River delta – includes the metropolis of Shanghai and the surrounding provinces such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu, famous for rattan furniture, painted solid woods, metal furniture, and more. One interesting place is Anji county, which specializes in bamboo furniture and materials.
- The West Triangle – comprises cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing, and Xi’an. This economic area is generally a lower-cost region for furniture, offering rattan garden furniture and metal beds, among others.
- The Bohai Sea region – this area includes such cities as Beijing and Tianjin. It is mainly popular for glass and metal furniture. As the north-eastern regions of China are rich in wood, the prices are especially favorable. However, the quality offered by some manufacturers may be inferior to those of eastern areas.
Speaking of furniture markets, in turn, the most popular ones are located in Foshan, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin.
What furniture can you import from China to the US?
The Chinese market has a lot of advantages when it comes to furniture production and can ensure continuity of supply chains. Therefore, if you imagine any furniture, there is an excellent chance that you can find it there.
It is worth remembering that a given manufacturer might only specialize in one or a few types of furniture, ensuring expertise in a given field. You may be interested in importing:
- sofas and couches,
- children furniture,
- bedroom furniture,
- dining room furniture,
- living room furniture,
- office furniture,
- hotel furniture,
- wood furniture,
- metal furniture,
- plastic furniture,
- upholstered furniture,
- wicker furniture.
- rattan furniture,
- outdoor metal furniture,
The most popular furniture groups imported from China to the US in 2018 were:
- general furniture and furniture parts (35.9%)
- seats and seat parts (31.2%)
- mattress supports and bedding (9.4%).
Customs rates on furniture from China
Before importing any product to the United States, especially from a country that does not have a preferential trade agreement with the US, you should always check the customs duty tariff. In some cases, this might be the key factor to determine if your business will be profitable. The current tariff can be found in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.
Most furniture is placed in Chapter 94 of Section XX (Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles). All you need to do is find the product of your interest and the customs rate in the “General” column.
Below, we present the HTS codes and exemplary duty rates on furniture imported from China:
- 9401.53.00.00 – rattan seats – 0%
- 9401.61.20.10 – household chairs of teak, upholstered – 0%
- 9401.80.20.05 – stationery activity centers for children, of reinforced or laminated plastics – 0%
- 9402.10.00.00 – dentists’, barbers’ or similar chairs and parts thereof – 0%
- 9403.10.00.40 – metal furniture of a kind used in offices – 0%
- 9403.20.00.40 – foldable mattress foundations with legs, having the characteristics of a bed or bed frame, of metal – 0%
- 9403.40.40.00 – bent-wood furniture of a kind used in the kitchen – 0%
- 9403.60.80.40 – wooden dining tables – 0%
- 9403.82.00.01 – bamboo cribs – 0%
- 9403.90.00.00 – furniture parts – 0%
- 9404.10.00.00 – mattress supports – 0%
- 9404.29.10.00 – cotton mattresses – 3%
- 9404.29.90.00 – mattresses of materials other than cotton and cellular rubber or plastics – 6%.
As you can see, customs duty on most furniture products imported to the US is 0%, which makes this type of business seem incredibly profitable. However, one must keep in mind that anti-dumping rates may be in force for some product groups imported from China. It is the case when the price of such a product is substantially lower than the market price of similar articles made in the USA. In recent years, anti-dumping rates have been imposed on wooden bedroom furniture imported from Chinese factories, with the cash deposit rate ranging from around 9% up to 216%.
One must also be careful when importing other wood furniture, such as wooden headboards or nightstands, because anti-dumping rules may also apply in those cases. These rules are set according to the Tariff Act of 1930. You can seek guidance from the International Trade Administration in this matter.
Another important fact is that you need a customs bond to import furniture to the US.
Importing furniture from China to the US – Safety regulations
Product quality and safety are crucial, especially since the importer, not the manufacturer in China, is legally responsible for its compliance with regulations. There are four main areas regarding furniture safety that importers must pay attention to:
1. Wood furniture sanitizing & sustainability
Special rules concerning wood furniture help fight against illegal logging and protect the country from invasive insects. In the US, the USDA’s (United States Department of Agriculture) agency APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) oversees the import of timber and woods products. All wood entering the country must be inspected and undergo sanitization procedures (heat or chemical treatment being the two possible options).
Yet other rules are in place when importing wooden handicraft products from China – those can only be imported from approved manufacturers featured on a list issued by the USDA APHIS. After confirming that a given manufacturer is approved, you can apply for an import permit.
Besides, importing furniture made from an endangered wood species requires separate permits and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) compliance. You can find more information on the issues mentioned above on the official USDA website.
2. Children furniture compliance
Children’s products are always subject to rigorous requirements, furniture being no exception. According to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) definition, children’s furniture is designed for 12 years or younger. It indicates that all furniture, such as cribs, children’s bunk beds, etc., is subject to CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) compliance.
Within these rules, children’s furniture, regardless of the material, must be lab-tested by a CPSC-accepted third-party laboratory. Moreover, the importer must issue a Children Product Certificate (CPC) and attach a permanent CPSIA tracking label. There are also some additional rules concerning cribs.
3. Upholstered furniture flammability performance
Even though there is no federal law regarding furniture flammability performance, in practice, the California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 is in force in the whole country. According to the bulletin, all upholstered furniture should meet the specified flammability performance and testing standards.
4. General regulations concerning the usage of certain substances
Besides the requirements mentioned above, all furniture should also meet the SPSC standards when it comes to using hazardous substances, such as phthalates, lead, and formaldehyde, among others. One of the essential acts in this matter is the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). This also concerns product packaging – in many states, the packaging cannot contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. The only way to ensure that your product is safe for the customers is to test it via laboratory.
As defective bunk beds may pose a serious danger to the users, they are additionally subject to the General Certificate of Conformity (GCC) compliance procedure.
Even more, requirements are present in California – according to California Proposition 65, several hazardous substances cannot be used in consumer products.
What else should you pay attention to when importing furniture from China?
To excel in importing furniture from China to the US, you should also ensure that your product meets the customer’s requirements. It is fundamental to import from China. As once having arrived in the US port of destination, the cargo cannot be easily returned. Conducting quality checks on different stages of production/transportation is a good way to ensure that such an unpleasant surprise will not happen.
If you need a guarantee that your product’s load, stability, structure, dimensions, etc., are satisfactory, a quality check might be the only way. It is, after all, fairly complicated to order a sample of furniture.
It is advisable to search for a manufacturer, not a wholesaler of furniture in China. The reason is that wholesalers can rarely ensure compliance with all the safety standards. Of course, manufacturers might have higher MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) requirements. Furniture MOQs usually range from one or a few pieces of bigger furniture, such as sofa sets or beds, up to even 500 pieces of small furniture, such as foldable chairs.
There are some basic rules applying to all the products entering the United States. One of the obligations is collecting the mandatory import documentation, including:
- Commercial Invoice issued by the exporter;
- Packing List;
- Freight Bill (Bill of Lading, B/L for sea freight and Air Waybill AWB for air freight);
- Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533).
Make sure that you have a set of correctly issued documents allowing the cargo to pass through customs clearance, including the relevant compliance certificates. Keep in mind that all the imported goods in the US must have an affixed COO label (Country of Origin).
Furniture trade shows in China
Apart from searching for suppliers on e-commerce platforms, visiting specialized trade shows is a great way to find a business partner and check product quality personally. As furniture is one of China’s leading export product groups, there are various trade shows open to international visitors:
Jinan Furniture Fair
Venue: Jinan International Convention & Exhibition Center
International Design and Furniture Fair Hong Kong
Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Venue: Shanghai New International Expo Center
Global Sources Gifts & Home
Venue: Asia World-Expo, Hong Kong
CIFF China International Furniture Fair (Shanghai)
Venue: National Exhibition & Convention Centre
CIFF China International Furniture Fair (Guangzhou)
Venue: China Import and Export Fair Complex
Home Furnishing Expo Shenzhen
Venue: Shenzhen Convention & Exhibition Center
Canton Fair Phase 2 (Guangzhou)
Venue: China Import and Export Fair Complex
Famous Furniture Fair (Dongguan)
Venue: Guangdong Modern International Exhibition Center
Venue: China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex
Transporting Furniture from China to the US
As furniture is heavy and, in some cases, takes up a lot of space in a container, sea freight seems to be the only reasonable option for transporting furniture from China to the US. Naturally, if you need to immediately import one or a couple of furniture pieces, air freight will be much faster.
When transporting via sea, you can choose either Full Container Load (FCL) or Less than Container Load (LCL). Quality of packaging is crucial here, as furniture can crush quite easily. It should always be loaded on ISPM 15 pallets. Shipping from China to the US takes from 14 to around 50 days, depending on the route. However, the whole process might take up to 2 or even 3 months due to unforeseen delays.
Check the most significant differences between FCL and LCL.
- Many of the US furniture imports come from China, the world’s largest exporter of furniture and its parts;
- The most famous furniture areas are located mainly in the Pearl River delta, including the city of Foshan;
- A vast majority of furniture imports to the US are free of duty. However, certain wooden furniture from China may be subject to anti-dumping duty rates;
- There are numerous safety regulations in place, concerning particularly children furniture, upholstered furniture, and wood furniture.
Are you interested in importing furniture from China to the European Union? You can find the relevant information in our previous article.