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Furniture Imports to the United States Best Practices Guide

November 17, 2021

Imported furniture represents an excellent opportunity to expand available brands and selection while simultaneously diversifying inventory with unique options that customers want and love. High-quality imported furniture is popular because it offers exotic materials and designs, quality craftsmanship, and affordable pricing opportunities. 

While there are many furniture importers in the USA, and imported furniture continues to be a hot commodity, there is still much that potential importers need to know. This article will cover the essentials of how furniture businesses can capitalize on this growing niche market and make the most of importing and exporting furniture items with end-to-end visibility technology and innovation.

Why Import Furniture From International Markets to the USA?

The estimated value of global furniture imports that came into the U.S. was around $67 billion back in 2018, according to national trade reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Furniture imports have seen a fairly steady increase over the past five years from $47.7 billion in 2013. As of March 2019, year-to-date furniture imports were $15.2 billion. And those numbers have continued to grow, despite some drop back due to the global pandemic. 

But now that things are opening back up, consumer demand for quality imported furniture is likely to spike again very soon. According to the Journal of Commerce Online, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s homes have become more than their castle; it’s their office, gym, school, theater, and restaurant. 

As a result, many Americans have been renovating and redecorating their homes, evidenced by an 11.9 percent increase in containerized imports of household goods in 2020, a year-to-year swing of more than 17 percentage points.” Furniture importers need to prepare and be ready for the windfall that is around the corner. The demand is growing and shows little sign of slowing down any time soon, and furniture importers need to be ready to maximize their hold on export furniture items!

What Types of Furniture Are Typically Imported

Furniture can be imported into the US from several different countries and for many different reasons. Most of the imported furniture products are handcrafted and made from solid wood of high-quality origins. These pieces are made without glue, nails, or screws and utilize traditional woodworking and fastening measures. They are made of quality materials and craftsmanship to ensure they will last for a lifetime. Additional pieces such as padding, fabrics, and upholstery are added with care to cover seams and joints and create a stunningly beautiful piece of furniture.

Furniture importers in the USA can enjoy a wide diversity of sophisticated and affordable furniture from China, Mexico, India, and other countries. You can choose from a range of manufacturers in each country to get the furniture pieces you want or need. This is particularly true when it comes to the always-popular wooden furniture niche market. 

The team at Mere Disciple noted that “Mass production has made it possible for consumers to buy anything they need in their homes whether it’s from a brick and mortar shop or an online shop… But where has all the custom-made furniture gone? Anything handcrafted is hard to find these days. But in case you find one, the first thing you notice is quality.

Handcrafted furniture these days often come from artisans and crafters who consider their work an art form.” The quality and elegance provided by hand-made wooden furniture cannot be denied as it is still the most in-demand option for anyone looking for new furniture.

However, finding a furniture manufacturer that produces every kind of furniture piece you are looking for won’t be easy. Like any other industry, every furniture manufacturer specializes in a specific area. You may find that you can get tables and chairs and dining sets from India but find you prefer working with a manufacturer in China for beds and couches. This diversification of sourcing is common when importing furniture into the United States. 

The most common types of export furniture items include:

  • Upholstered Furniture
  • Hotel Furniture
  • Office Furniture
  • Wooden Furniture
  • Wicker Furniture
  • Plastic Furniture
  • Metal Furniture
  • Patio Furniture
  • Hand-made Furniture
  • Bathroom Furniture
  • Bedroom Furniture
  • Children’s Furniture
  • Living Room Furniture
  • Dining Room Furniture

The sheer diversity available when it comes to finding quality furniture to import is one of the leading reasons this niche market has become so popular and remains in such high demand. There are so many options to choose from and so much diversity- and all with better craftsmanship, price tag, and lifespan than what most mass-produced furniture here in the States can offer. Furniture importers in the USA must be poised to take advantage of these opportunities, particularly in today’s highly competitive markets. This is where international logistics management can make a huge difference in the marketability of imported furniture. 

Considerations When Importing Furniture

When you are considering importing furniture from another country, one thing to keep in mind is the variety and craftsmanship available. Consider, too, the added value that comes from quality materials and craftsmanship and the added opportunity to get items customized. 

There are pre-designed furniture items to be found in abundance, of course. Still, suppose you want to customize pieces to increase their value or appeal to individual customers. In that case, many more manufacturers are willing to do custom pieces overseas than here in the States. You can choose the design, material, and finishes and coordinate with your customers to add any personal touches they wish.

However, along with this customization comes one downside that needs to be carefully considered and taken into account with any import arrangements made, and that is import duty on furniture from other countries. Like every other item that is transported across national borders, there are certain types of import tax and import duty on furniture in USA that will be added to every shipment. 

These taxes and customs fees will add to the overall cost of shipping and receiving those goods and will need to be applied to the final selling price to maintain desired profit margins. Some countries have higher import taxes along with different duties and custom clearance fees and protocols. 

Likewise, carefully consider that different pieces of furniture from the same country may have other requirements. When choosing partners for furniture importers in the USA, these additional fees will also be a top priority. They can significantly impact bottom line profits and limit what furniture you can import and how much inventory you will maintain at any given time.

The final consideration, what kinds of furniture you will be able to import, is often overlooked. It would be best also to container lookup options and what types of shipping options are available to accommodate your needs. There is little point in importing products that will not sell or have low demand and take forever to move. Good deals and bulk orders on export furniture items will still end up costing you money in the end if those tables are not the kind that customers are looking for or those chairs are not selling like you thought they would. 

This is where proper market research is critical to know what market demands are trending and where customer focus is at any given time. Comparing historical data and watching for changes in trends and popularity of furniture styles and types will help you keep up with the most popular options and make it easier to maximize your profits with your furniture imports.

Best Practices to Import Furniture to the United States

There are many reasons why companies look at importing opportunities as a way to save money and grow their businesses. According to USA Customs Clearance, “Foreign sourcing for your products typically costs less than domestic sourcing. You might be able to save as much as 75 percent or more in labor costs by taking advantage of foreign sourcing. These savings allow you to tack on more money for importing and/or product development.” Importing furniture from China, India, Mexico and working closely with other foreign partners can help grow your business by keeping your inventory full and fresh and attracting new high-quality customers to your brand. Importing furniture can allow you to diversify your product offerings. Hence, you stand out from the competition and can present yourself as a source of  unique top-quality furniture.

When you import exotic furniture, customers will repeatedly return to see what new items you have and what upgrades they may be willing to make to their current furniture. As with any business partnership, but especially one dealing with long-distance communications and business workings overseas, there are some key things to consider with each major importer type.

  • General – The primary benefit of importing furniture into the US is gaining access to higher-quality goods at lower prices. Domestic manufacturers generally are focused on quantity over quality and utilize mass-production techniques. Many overseas manufacturers still employ handcrafting processes that focus on the unique look and feel of each piece. By importing furniture into the United States, companies can significantly improve profits and offer greater variety to customers. However, this also means dealing with more protocols and obstacles. Every country has its own unique rules and regulations regarding import duty on furniture in the USA and business relations with other countries.

The best practice for general importing of furniture: Start by working with an expert freight forwarder who can help your team complete all paperwork on time, manage the schedule, and create a turnkey import process.

  • China – The biggest factor to consider regarding the ability to import furniture from China to the USA is simply the time interments that are needed. It can take a great deal of time to ship from China with ocean tracking and transport. Overseas transit time alone can take a few weeks to a few months, depending on how the cargo is loaded and shipped and size of the initial investment into shipping costs. The entire process of moving furniture from manufacturer to final show floor or sales warehouse can take three months or more. If weather delays, rolled cargo, or other unexpected interruptions occur, it can take even longer. This is why many sellers stagger orders regularly to ensure they always have new inventory coming in and to ensure they are covered if one or two loads are unexpectedly delayed.

Additional best practices when importing from China to the U.S: Carefully evaluate potential suppliers and plan for a long transit time. Furthermore, shippers need a clear way to track the container from its origin in China through arrival at a U.S. port and consider potential drayage needs upon unloading. 

  • Mexico – Furniture imported from south of the border is popular among American buyers, thanks mainly to the generally rustic style and colorful designs that furniture takes on in this market. Mexican furniture often features high-quality wood that has been hand-painted and carved into beautiful patterns and designs. The use of bright colors and patterns harkens back to the popular blankets, pottery, paintings, beadwork, and other design elements that make Mexican culture so popular. Exotic wood, colors, designs, and styles all make Mexican imports popular. However, these pieces are often highly prized. They can incur higher taxes, customs fees, and duties at the border due to their sheer value and marketability of imported furniture from Mexico to USA.

Therefore, here is a best practice for importing furniture from Mexico: Carefully evaluate each item’s condition, streamline transit by container for Gulf of Mexico transport to the East Coast, and evaluate potential savings through rail. Ultimately, being within the land area of North America doesn’t mean ocean transit is off the table. 

  • India – Furniture imported from India is highly sought after and is valuable for its intricate and ornate designs. The addition of high-quality artisan construction makes it more in-demand among customers seeking unique and quality pieces for their interior design needs. Indian furniture is often hand-carved, making each piece unique and one of a kind, making each piece all the more valuable and sought after. 

As with other furniture imports into the U.S,. these Indian-made pieces can bring  issues involving longer transportations similar to China imports and higher customs and fees as seen with Mexican imports. They get great resale values but this needs to be carefully compared with other possible drawbacks and issues, such as a lengthy import period highlighted with container track and trace platforms.

With the new awareness of furniture shortcomings, the desire for better furniture in the home and office, a financial boost from recent federal stimulus payments, and good homeownership perks, homeowners continue to invest in the upkeep and improvement of their homes. Tapping into this growing niche market can help businesses maximize their profits, bring in new customers, and grow stronger partnerships through furniture imports. 

Why Container Tracking Is Critical When Importing Furniture

With the long-standing market in place and the demand for quality imported furniture only rising after the market crunch of the last few years, it is more important than ever for furniture importers to keep tabs on their shipments at all times. When cargo containers are shipping from as far away as China and India, it is crucial to know where ships are and the status of loading and unloading containers at a port. Other critical benefits of container tracking when dealing with import and export furniture items include: 

  • Access to real-time data and the ability to provide accurate answers about the location of your stuff and inquiries about order statuses.
  • Plan team member workloads and driver availability around estimated delivery times, which are improved with real-time tracking and up-to-date reports.
  • Easier time at border crossings and less stressful encounters with agents thanks to digital documentation and reporting about each shipment load.
  • Better management of shipments to reduce excessive fees and better manage required import tax on furniture shipments.
  • Coordinate orders and shipment deliveries to easily maintain warehouse and inventory availability and keep in-demand pieces available to customers.
  • Reduce other fees, like per diems, detention, and demurrage charges while maximizing container capacity and ensuring speedy shipping.
  • Faster response times and more practical actions for when delays, disruptions, and other issues arise during import transportation. 

Get Automated Shipping Container Delivery Status With OpenTrack’s Container Tracking API

High-quality furniture imported into the United States from other countries is popular because it offers unique design and construction elements that cannot be found easily or affordably in the US domestic market. Understanding the processes involved with furniture import duty USA and managing and tracking orders to ensure sustainable inventory levels is a complicated process that requires expert assistance. While furniture imports continue to be a hot commodity, there is still much that potential importers need to know, including where to turn for quality and reliable tracking and monitoring of their valuable cargo. With shipments coming from places like China and India, container tracking and automated status updates and delivery reports can make the entire importing process less stressful and more profitable. Contact OpenTrack today to see a demo of the revolutionary container monitoring and tracking API for use across furniture imports and beyond now.

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