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The ultimate guide to importing furniture from China to New Zealand

If you're looking for tips and tricks on how to import furniture from China to New Zealand, 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 New Zealand with Epic Sourcing
April 20, 2023

If you're looking for tips and tricks on how to import furniture from China to New Zealand, 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 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 fiberboard (MDF)

Medium-density fiberboard (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 New Zealand. 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 our beautiful country.


The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for the importation and distribution of wood and wooden furniture from China into New Zealand. If you're importing wood products and furniture, your products need to meet certain biosecurity requirements to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases to New Zealand.

When importing wood products to New Zealand, you're responsible for:

  • Meeting the import health standard (IHS) for your products
  • Arranging appropriate treatment for your products, if needed
  • Reporting to MPI if your product shows signs of disease or pests
  • Keeping the right records

Type of wood restrictions:

There are also strict rules regarding the types of wood used in the production of furniture due to environmental concerns. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has set out specific requirements which must be met by manufacturers and suppliers in order for their products to gain approval for import into New Zealand. These include only using native trees or those grown sustainably, avoiding endangered species, and not using treated timber.


In addition, all timber products imported into New Zealand must be free from pests and meet any other relevant requirements as set out in the Official Assurance Standard for Imported Timber Products (OASITP). This standard requires that all timber products are inspected at source by a qualified inspector before they are shipped to New Zealand.

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 jerks 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. 

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Safety Standards:

All imported furniture is also required to comply with safety standards set out by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE). This includes meeting certain fire safety regulations, electrical safety requirements, and general performance guidelines relating to strength and durability.

Is your furniture in the 'low-risk' categories list?

In November 2022, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced changes to import requirements for wood into NZ that would not need inspection and treatment on arrival was listed. Furniture and materials included:

  • MDF items
  • Wood veneer
  • Furniture and items for the use of infants and children, including cots, baby gates and teaching equipment.

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.

In New Zealand, goods with a value over NZD $1,000 may be liable for Duty and Goods and Services (GST) upon that Duty. This is 10.5% for furniture items made out of wood or timber and 17.5% for other materials such as metal or plastics. GST Tax is a 15% tax on the value of the furniture plus any duties and other costs.

Further import duties on furniture imported from China include:

  • Excise Duty - Applies to imports valued over NZ$60. This is currently 12.5 cents per kilogram for most items, with a minimum charge of NZ$7.50 per item. 
  • Countervailing Duties - These duties apply to imports that are deemed to be subsidised by the government in the country of origin. Currently, these duties range from 0% to 16.8%. 
  • Anti-Dumping Duty - This duty is applied when goods enter New Zealand at a price below their true value. The current rate for furniture from China is 12.5%. 
  • Biosecurity Fees - All imported goods entering New Zealand must be inspected to ensure compliance with biosecurity regulations. The fees charged for this inspection range from $34.86 to $172, depending on the type of goods being imported. For more detailed pricing, review the Biosecurity inspections fees table on the MPI website here.

Fees and charges for importing wood products

The Ministry of Primary Industries will charge fees when you import furniture made from wood from China into New Zealand. These fees cover import permits, border clearance inspections and travel costs. Not all fees may apply to your business, but there may be other others such as transport, storage or laboratory costs.

As we mentioned before, wooden products, such as wooden furniture, need a permit before they can be imported into New Zealand. The import health standards (IHS) will tell you if a permit is required for your furniture. The application for a permit to import non-propagable forest products, including wood products, is $220.74 (incl. GST).

Further details on wood product fees can be found here.

Step 7 - Arrange shipping and logistics 

There are several options to consider when shipping furniture from China to New Zealand: 

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 New Zealand, 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 New Zealand or Australia, 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 kiwi and Aussie 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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