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Buy furniture from Vietnam: potential and pitfalls when importing furniture from Asia
Tuesday, 12.04.2018

Buy furniture from Vietnam: potential and pitfalls when importing furniture from Asia

Furniture business opportunities in Vietnam are enormous and can lead to a definitive competitive edge and increased margins for those that manage to benefit from the huge potential of the furniture industry.

Many different kinds of businesses in Europe and around the world are seeking to buy furniture from Vietnam and other Asian countries (mostly China but also Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.). These businesses can be very varied and include architects, hotel and restaurant owners, furniture wholesalers, small and medium furniture retailers, interior decorators and many more. Vietnam has emerged as a major furniture producer in Asia and exports of Vietnamese produced furniture increase every year. Purchasing furniture in Vietnam can be easy and the key to a successful business in your home country. 

The ever-increasing flow of furniture exported from Vietnam and exported to countries around the world reflects the huge potential of the Vietnamese furniture industry.

Potential of importing furniture from Vietnam for all kinds of businesses

We focus on the luxury and high-end furniture segment. Many would think that purchasing this kind of furniture is near to impossible as the main thoughts that come to mind when referring to importing furniture from Asia is low-quality products and components, cheap-priced, often copied designs with total disregard to intellectual property and mass production without attention to details.

If you have time and resources to endure a very steep learning curve (see the pitfalls we describe below), there is a huge potential for improving your sourcing and margins by importing from Asia. You will find that the most famous luxury brands, from clothing and accessories (leather bags, suitcases) to electronic devices, all produce in Asia, mainly in China but also in neighboring countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Most consumers don’t even realize this which is already a testament to the success luxury brands have had with this cost-effective strategy. Most of these international brands don’t have their own production facilities but rather sub-contract the production to a panel of local suppliers that can deliver the quality standards that are required from them.

In the footwear or textile industry, it is not unusual to observe one subcontractor or factory with different production lines, each allocated for a specific international brand. As part of our own learning curve and while we seek the best quality, we have learned, in the furniture industry, that it is much better to work directly with a furniture producer that is already recognized internationally for the quality of the furniture produced. These often have their own brand which is sold at high-street retailers around the world. Knowing that you are purchasing a luxury sofa from a producer that is selling the same sofas to luxury furniture retailers in Europe is a guarantee that you will receive the same quality that is being acclaimed by western consumers.

Most of these exclusive producers do not have time or the will to deal with small buyers so this is where we can provide a very useful service since we have partnerships in place with Danish, Italian and English furniture producers who are located in Vietnam (many were producing before in Europe but have relocated to Asia). Being able to access high-end furniture factories, purchase at wholesale prices and mix different items made by different producers into one container opens a whole world of possibilities whatever your project may be (hotel, restaurants, interior decoration, retailing, etc.).

Pitfalls to avoid when importing furniture from Vietnam and across Asia

However,there are many pitfalls and every day, many buyers are disappointed by what promised to be a great transaction and that turned out to be a nightmare with dire financial consequences. It is essential to have a network of trusted and dependable furniture producers whose factories and capabilities you have tried and proved through a solid and durable relationship. Trying to make a quick transaction by purchasing furniture from a furniture factory that you hardly know because you are tempted by the incredibly low prices is the first step to having an unsuccessful transaction.

Quality issues when purchasing furniture from Vietnam

Quality issues are a recurrent and daunting problem for most inexperienced furniture buyers in Vietnam. Being unable to have somebody you can trust to inspect your order before shipment will frequently lead to receiving a container at your home port or warehouse that will despair you when you see what furniture you have just imported from Vietnam.

To successfully import furniture from Vietnam (o elsewhere in Asia), it is mandatory to be able to perform quality controls, not only before shipment of the goods but during the production of these goods so you can detect defects and other production issues as they appear.

Many buyers have had a bad surprise, not on the first container received by a supplier but later on in the relationship, after having received several containers, suddenly one arrives and the quality is no longer there. Many reasons can take an Asian furniture producer to do this, almost all of them beyond your control, the only way to protect and ensure success for your operations is to monitor extensively each and every shipment, during production and before packaging.

Quality issues can be apparent and easily detected if you have the means to carry out an inspection (QC or quality control) before the packing of the furniture. Some other issues only appear later on, after the furniture has been delivered to your clients, sometimes a long time after. To avoid this, a thorough knowledge and control of the components and the processes used to produce the furniture you are importing are essential. Other quality issues need to be detected and prevented during the production of certain types of furniture (for example a faulty powder coating process) because they will not be apparent if you only carry out one QC, just before packaging.

Knowing your products and your supplier over a span of several years also enables you to find permanent solutions to problems that arise only after a furniture item has been used for several months or years (i.e., structural defects, etc.).

Here are just a few examples of different kinds of problems you may encounter when purchasing and importing furniture from Vietnam and Asia:

Packaging quality and packing furniture for import from Vietnam

Packaging and packing furniture for export is another essential dimension for the success of your purchase of furniture in Vietnam or in Asia. Depending on your logistics flow, packaging will have to be adapted to ensure that there is no damage to your furniture, either inside the container during sea transportation or later on, upon arrival at the port of destination or during the distribution process by truck to your warehouse or to your customer’s location.

This is definitely what you don’t wish to see when opening the package of furniture you have imported from Vietnam: bad packing (some parts inside the carton were assembled when they shouldn’t have been) and low quality carton leads to irreparable damages and your supplier won’t refund you in this situation.

Most furniture factories include in the furniture’s price what is called “export quality packaging”, do not take any risks with that because this packaging is insufficient and flimsy, if you want to guarantee that your furniture arrives in pristine condition, you will need specific and technical packaging (honeycomb cardboard and hard rulers for the edges). Loading the furniture into the container is another source of damages since consolidation platforms involve workers who do not belong to the furniture factories, their main target being to squeeze all the boxes into a container as quickly as possible, no need for them to worry about anything breaking… When importing luxury furniture from Vietnam, each item that might be damaged might represent several thousand dollars of loss. Here are some more photos illustrating different situations you might encounter and that are caused either by inadequate packaging or careless container loading (stuffing).

Robust and technical packaging can be a significant addition to your import cost breakdown (can reach 7-12% of the value of a product) however, it can provide protection against having to discard the damages to the furniture are discovered when it is unpacked at your warehouse or even worse (because of higher removal and disposal costs), at your clients’ homes.

As such, Clients are looking to buy directly from Vietnam for cost saving and production liability compared to decades ago where they only placed orders domestically or buying from China. There are always high demands of buying furniture from reliable manufacturers, with solid financial background, high capacity of production to ensure delivery time, and consistent quality in mass production. However, unawareness of above challenge might lead them to pitfalls when the goods are already in the ocean and they are about to clear them at destination port. On the other hand, communication border and physical distance appear to be always another set of challenge for them to work directly with those prospects. That is the reason why we – WAYHOME - are here to full-fill and standardize all the requirements from Clients, turn all the complex works into simplicities for the best benefit of our Clients.


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