The ultimate guide to importing furniture from China to the UK

If you're looking for tips and tricks on how to import furniture from China to the UK, then you've come to the right place. At Epic Sourcing we've helped hundreds of clients navigate the process of importing products from China. We understand that it can be a complicated task for even the most seasoned business owner. So, we've put together a guide to help make your life easier.

Importing furniture from China to the UK with Epic Sourcing
April 20, 2023

If you're looking for tips and tricks on how to import furniture from China to the UK, then you've come to the right place. At Epic Sourcing we've helped hundreds of clients navigate the process of importing products from China. We understand that it can be a complicated task for even the most seasoned business owner. So, we've put together a guide to help make your life easier.

In this blog post, we'll cover the entire process of importing furniture from China from start to finish; from understanding how import duties work, to how to find the right supplier for your business. With our expert advice and insider tips, you'll be able to navigate the process like a pro. Let's get started!

Step 1: Decide what type of furniture you want to import: pre-designed or custom-made.

Ready to source furniture from China? Great! The first thing that you need to do is choose your procurement path. While this may sound complicated, let us reassure you that it is not! All this means is that you need to decide if you want to import pre-designed pieces or manufacture a piece from scratch using your design. It’s amazing how many businesses don’t spend any time weighing up the options.

Let's look at the two options in more detail:

Sourcing pre-designed furniture: This involves choosing a pre-designed piece of furniture and tracking down a manufacturer or supplier that can supply it to you. If you're on a tight timeline, need to build or expand your product line quickly, or you’re brand new to importing products from China, then pre-designed furniture is an excellent option. It's efficient, cost-effective, and ensures that you get what you need in record time.

Manufacture custom-made furniture: This, as the name suggests, involves using a manufacturer to produce furniture designed by you. Essentially, you'd be providing detailed specifications on specific materials, measurements, design objectives, and functionality. The end result is a completely unique piece of furniture.

Both procurement paths offer unique benefits and disadvantages, so it is important to assess all the requirements (including your project timeline, price, and quality standards) before deciding which pathway best suits your needs.

The pros and cons of importing pre-designed furniture from China:

When sourcing pre-designed furniture, you're essentially buying generic furniture that can be minimally customised through branding and, to an extent, colour and material. It can be hard to make your furniture brand stand out from the crowd if you’re offering pieces that are readily available in the market. The biggest upside of sourcing pre-designed furniture is of course the lower initial investment. It also gives you an opportunity to get a product to market fast, and test the viability of your marketing strategy.

There is a sneaky middle ground, and it is often where our clients at Epic Sourcing like to play. That is, taking pre-designed furniture and customising. Of course there are limitations here, but you’d be surprised at what customisation options are available, particularly with improvements in manufacturing techniques we’re seeing being used in China.

The pros and cons of manufacturing custom furniture in China:

If you're looking to bring a unique piece or range to life, then sourcing custom furniture provides the opportunity to innovate. You’re only limited by your imagination here (and the laws of physics) and you’ll have the freedom to explore whatever radical design you can dream up. 

The process is of course more complicated, but if you find the right manufacturer and have detailed design files, it’s often not as difficult as many people think. Keep in mind that manufacturing custom furniture involves a longer production time and more capital investment.

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Step 2: Choose the right material 

Sourcing great furniture from China starts with the right material: quality material makes quality furniture. 

These are the top 6 top materials used for manufacturing furniture in China:

1. Plywood

Plywood is a versatile and durable material. It can be laminated, painted, or stained and is widely used as the main source of structural strength in many furniture pieces. Plywood is economical and has a high resistance to splitting, warping, and twisting.

2. Particleboard

Particleboard is another popular material that consists of waste wood particles bound together with adhesives and pressure. Particleboard is cost-effective but not as strong or durable as plywood.

3. Medium-density fibreboard (MDF)

Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is constructed from a combination of wax and resin binders that form an impenetrable material. Additionally, veneers or laminates may be used to increase its strength which makes it ideal for furniture manufacturing with intricate details found in high-end pieces.

4. Steel

Steel is a popular option for manufacturing furniture from China due to its robustness and cost-effectiveness. When treated with protective finishes, such as paint or powder coating, steel's longevity increases drastically, making it ideal for outdoor pieces.

5. Aluminium

Aluminium is a preferred material due to its remarkable strength-to-weight ratio, which allows it to be delivered quickly and proficiently. Additionally, aluminium's reflective nature helps regulate the temperature in hot climates, making it an ideal choice for outdoor use.

6. Sustainable materials

Many Chinese furniture manufacturers source their materials from rapidly renewable resources like bamboo and rattan that can be harvested responsibly and with less environmental damage than traditional methods. Additionally, eco-friendly materials such as recycled aluminium, cotton, hemp, wool and cork are increasingly being used in the production of modern furniture.

Things to keep in mind when choosing furniture materials.

There are certain risks when it comes to importing furniture from China to the UK. Material to watch out for include:


If you're importing furniture with feathers from China, it's vital that it undergoes the necessary treatment to avoid any potential harm caused by hazardous pathogens which can affect both humans and animals.

Plant materials

Furniture manufacturers sometimes use plant material in their production, so it is essential that you understand the exact components in the furniture you are importing. Plant materials can bring similar dangers as solid timber and must be managed properly to avoid bringing foreign pests into the country.


Importing wooden furniture to the UK involves adherence to various regulations to ensure compliance with environmental, health, and safety standards. If you are importing wooden items, there are some key regulations and considerations.

When importing wood products to the UK, you're responsible for:

  • 1. Timber Regulations: The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market. It requires importers to exercise due diligence to minimize the risk of illegal timber entering the supply chain.
  • 2. CITES Regulations: If the wooden furniture contains protected species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), you'll need to obtain appropriate permits and documentation for importation.
  • 3. Phytosanitary Regulations: Wooden furniture might be subject to phytosanitary regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of pests and diseases. This typically involves obtaining a phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country's plant health authority.
  • 4. Fire Safety Regulations: Furniture imported to the UK must comply with fire safety standards outlined in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations. This may involve conducting fire safety tests and obtaining relevant certifications.
  • 5. Chemical Regulations: Ensure that the materials used in the furniture comply with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations, which restrict the use of certain hazardous chemicals in products placed on the EU market.
  • 6. Packaging Regulations: Packaging used for transporting the furniture should comply with packaging waste regulations, which aim to minimize packaging waste and promote recycling.
  • 7. Customs Duties and Import Taxes: Consider any applicable customs duties, tariffs, and import taxes when importing wooden furniture into the UK. These can vary depending on the country of origin and the type of furniture.
  • 8. Product Safety Standards: Ensure that the furniture meets relevant product safety standards, including stability, durability, and structural integrity, to protect consumers from potential hazards.
  • 9. Labeling Requirements: Certain labeling requirements may apply, such as indicating the country of origin, compliance with safety standards, and care instructions for the furniture.
  • 10. Environmental Impact: Consider the environmental impact of the production and transportation of the wooden furniture, and whether it meets sustainability criteria or certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

Step 3 - Find your supplier 

Once you've chosen your procurement path and material, it is time to find a supplier! Now, this is when things get interesting, as finding reliable suppliers and manufacturers in China can be tricky.

Thanks to B2B sites like Alibaba it has never been easier to connect with Chinese suppliers, but how do you know if they are any good?! The truth is that separating the gems from the rubble isn't easy and there is no simple answer. But, if you are thorough and diligent at this stage of the sourcing process, it will pay off long-term. At Epic, our approach to finding trustworthy, industry-leading suppliers relies heavily on due diligence, which broadly speaking involves a combination of the following:

  • Detailed verification (conducted by our team in China)
  • Factory visits (helpful but not essential)
  • Sampling (to establish product quality)

As a sourcing agency, we have the benefit of tapping into our existing network of trusted suppliers (many of which you won't find on Alibaba). However, that doesn't mean you can't find what you're looking for on B2B supplier directories, you just have to do a bit of work before you push play on production.

Pro tip: data driven services (like our Reverse Sourcing report) offer a revolutionary way to identify suppliers and manufacturers in your industry.

Step 4: Navigate Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs)

Before you place your order with the supplier or manufacturer in China, it is important to understand their minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirements.

Depending on the product and factory, MOQs may fluctuate significantly. Some factories may require a lower amount of product to be ordered, while others might demand a much higher MOQ. This is determined by the size of production runs, labour costs, or the furniture components. It is important to research potential factories and their MOQ requirements before entering into an agreement with them.

If you want to order furniture from a supplier but don't meet their MOQ, it is still possible to do so, but your cost per item will be based on this minimum. For example, if a product has an MOQ of 600 items and you require 500 pieces only, you may still have to pay the price of 600 units.

Pro tip: With some clever bargaining and negotiation, it's possible to get a better deal. Oh, and by the way, we can negotiate the terms on your behalf. 

Step 5 - Quality Control

When it comes to quality control, nothing beats having a team on the ground to conduct product inspections. The last thing you want is to have an order shipped to you only to find there are defects with the products. The good news is you don't have to fly to China to do it. There are multiple points at which to conduct a quality check - but for our clients we do so at the start of production and at our warehouse in China before the products are packed for shipping.

Pro tip: be thorough with your product spec/ information sheets. If your product arrives and it isn't what you were hoping for, being able to refer back to detailed instructions you provided to the supplier is key. Don't leave anything open to interpretation. 

Step 6 - Understanding Import duties

Import duties are taxes imposed by the importing country on goods imported from another country. These duties are typically based on the value of the item, as well as the type of product being imported. In addition, other factors such as origin, quantity and the intended use of the item may also determine the amount of import duty due.

1. Customs Duty:

Furniture imported into the UK from China may be subject to customs duty. Customs duty rates can vary depending on the Harmonized System (HS) code classification of the specific type of furniture being imported. The HS code provides a standardized system for classifying goods for customs and taxation purposes. The customs duty rates for different HS codes can range from 0% to several percent of the declared value of the goods.

2. Value Added Tax (VAT):

In addition to customs duty, imported furniture is generally subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) in the UK. As of my last update, the standard VAT rate in the UK is 20%, although certain goods may qualify for a reduced rate of 5% (e.g., certain types of residential property renovations) or be exempt from VAT altogether.

3. Anti-Dumping Duties or Other Trade Measures:

In some cases, the UK or the European Union may impose anti-dumping duties or other trade measures on specific types of furniture imported from China. These measures are designed to address instances where imported goods are being sold in the importing country at prices lower than their domestic market value, which can harm domestic producers. Anti-dumping duties aim to level the playing field for domestic producers by imposing additional duties on the imported goods.

4. Trade Agreements:

The UK's trade agreements, if any, with China or other countries may also affect the import duty rates applicable to furniture imports. Trade agreements can include provisions for preferential tariff rates or duty-free access for certain goods traded between the signatory countries.

It's important to consult with customs authorities or a professional sourcing agent for the most up-to-date and specific information regarding import duties on furniture imported from China to the UK. Additionally, importers should ensure compliance with all relevant customs regulations and documentation requirements to avoid delays or penalties at the border.

Step 7 - Arrange shipping and logistics 

There are several options to consider when shipping furniture from China to the UK: 

1. You can arrange your own shipment: this involves researching international freight rates, finding the most reliable carrier and negotiating the best price for you. This option requires extensive knowledge of customs clearance regulations.

2. You can hire a freight forwarder to handle the transportation process: this will save you time, as they are experienced in these matters and understand the necessary documentation.

3. You can ask your Chinese supplier to arrange shipment for you: this option is usually more cost-effective but requires good negotiation skills and an understanding of international trade rules.

4. You can look for a sourcing agent, such as Epic Sourcing: delegating this task to the experts will save you time and hassle. With our insider knowledge and years of experience dealing with imports from China to the UK, we can take care of all the logistics and paperwork involved.

Step 8 - Get ready for the arrival of your shipment

When your products arrive in the UK, you have a few options: 

  • You can opt to organise transport directly from the port. 
  • You can organise to have your products shipping to an ATF (Approved transitional facility)
  • Or you can partner with a 3PL and have them delivered to your door, or even your customers door!

A 3PL (or 3rd party logistics) service is the ultimate, streamlined method of organising the warehousing, inventory management and distribution of your products. The 3PL model of outsourcing these processes has become more and more efficient thanks in part to the boom of eCommerce. Our warehouse in China offers customised 3PL solutions for British businesses. We can consolidate, store, pick, package and ship products - with greater flexibility (and better pricing) than a lot of the big 3PLs.

Congrats! You've successfully imported furniture from China

Source furniture from China like a pro with Epic Sourcing

We'll help you find and import quality furniture from the best suppliers in China and Asia. Source your first product or your next best-seller. Build an agile and resilient supply chain, source quality products, and make sourcing simple, with Epic by your side.

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