Importing shoes from China to the EU

In 2021, global footwear production amounted to 22.2 billion pairs, which gives 2.8 pairs of shoes for each human on Earth. That year, the global footwear market value was estimated at USD 373.19 billion and is predicted to grow in size in future years. The five leading countries in terms of shoe production are China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Brazil. China is responsible for over 50% of global footwear manufacturing. In the article below, we give the best tips on importing shoes from China to the EU.

Importing shoes from China to the EU

Where is footwear produced in China?

China is the biggest footwear manufacturer in the world in terms of pairs of shoes produced in a year, with 12 billion pairs in 2021. Most of the producers are accumulated in the eastern part of the country, mainly in Wenzhou (Zhejiang province). This region houses more than 3,000 factories manufacturing footwear, mostly for domestic needs. Dongguan city (Guangdong province) is another leader in this area. Located here are around 1,500 factories, which produce 65% of shoes manufactured in China. Another important city is Jinjiang (Fujian province), which is known for advanced production technology. Jiangsu province also plays an important role in the footwear industry.

EU customs duty rate on footwear from China

Paying the tariff is an obligation of every importer that imports from China. TARIC system helps get to know what actual rates in the European Union are. Below, we prepared a list with some products and their tariffs:

  • 6401921000 – waterproof footwear with uppers of rubber and outer soles of rubber or of plastics covering the ankle (17%)
  • 6402121000 – ski boots with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics (17%)
  • 6402200000 – flip–flops (17%)
  • 6404209000 – footwear with outer soles of leather or composition leather and uppers of textile materials (17%)
  • 64041100 – sports footwear, ex. tennis shoes, basketball shoes, gym shoes with outer soles of rubber or plastics and uppers of textile materials (16,90%)
  • 6404191000 – slippers and other indoor footwear, with outer soles of rubber or plastics and uppers of textile materials (16,90%)
  • 6403200000 – leather sandals (8%)
  • 6403510590 – footwear with outer soles and uppers of leather, made on a base or platform of wood, covering the ankle (8%)
  • 6403511100, 6403511500, 6403511900 – leather shoes, covering the ankle, for children, men and women (8%)
  • 6405209100 – slippers and other indoor footwear with uppers of textile materials (4%)
  • 6405201000 – footwear with uppers of textile materials and outer soles of wood or cork (3,50%)
  • 6406209090 – outer soles and heels of plastics (3%)
  • 6406905090 – removable in-soles, heel cushions, and other removable accessories (3%)

If you need to check tariff rates for other products, you can check it in the official schedule.

As can be seen in the examples above, tariff rates for imported Chinese footwear are relatively high and can be between 3% and 17%, depending on the materials it is made from and its purpose.

Footwear fairs in China

In order to get to know what certain producers have to offer and make business contacts with them, it is best to attend fairs connected to a certain industry. Below is a list of footwear fairs in China that may interest shoe importers:

Shanghai International Footwear Exhibition

Global Sources Lifestyle x Fashion

Canton Fair

Shoes & Leather Guangzhou

DFM – Greater Bay Area Int’l Footwear Machinery & Material Industry Fair

Footwear importer’s obligations in the EU

Footwear is one of those products that should be carefully checked for compliance with norms and laws before putting them on the market. Otherwise, there is a danger of losing a big sum of money and being forced to send imported products back to China.

Footwear regulation in the European Union

Footwear imported to the European Union has to fulfill the requirements that can be found in documents such as:

  • Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)
  • Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety (it obligates companies to ensure the safety of the product which they’re putting on the market)
  • Directive 94/11/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 23 March 1994 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to labelling of the materials used in the main components of footwear for sale to the consumer.

Besides fulfilling the requirements mentioned above, you should also consider such matters as:

  • MOQ (Minimum Order Quantity) – in some factories, it may be between a few hundred to even a thousand pairs of shoes, so it would be advised to pay attention if a particular manufacturer has this kind of restriction
  • transportation of product to Europe – footwear, especially in boxes, takes up quite a lot of space, so the option of sea freight should be taken into consideration
  • giving your Chinese partner a very precise product specification and attaching it to your commercial contract
  • conducting quality control to see if the products were manufactured according to your requirements.