The Surface + Design Event China 2020

2020.12.9-11 | Shanghai New International Expo Centre(SNIEC)

 

Importing tiles from China: A Complete Guide

It is a common complaint that it is very difficult to choose good tile suppliers in China, because the choice, at more than 3,000 companies, is so extensive.

Many importers also find it a headache to select the correct tile designs and also exercise effective control over quality.  A large number of Chinese tile manufacturers are able to produce more than 25,000 sq. metres of tiles per day.  This means that they are ready to export almost any volume of tiles required at any time.

Many tile manufacturing nations around the world have been affected by the rapid growth of the Chinese tile industry.  Many of these countries have higher production costs, making China a cost-effective choice.  Many countries in the world, unlike the EU, do not have an anti-dumping duty on Chinese tiles. Moreover, tile exporters can get 9% taxation refund from the Chinese government.  Thus,depending on the type of tiles, Chinese suppliers’ selling prices can be 30% to 50% lower than tiles sourced elsewhere in the world.  Of course, the quality can also satisfy most importers’ requirements.

According to the statistics, rustic tiles account for 10% of all the ceramic tiles in China.  Currently, nearly 80% of the lines of rustic tiles are distributed in Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Shandong, Hunan, and Hubei provinces. In the first half of this year, 50 new lines for rustic tiles opened in Guangdong, Fujian, Gaoan and Linyi.

Most cities and provinces in China specialise in the manufacture of specific products.  Most suppliers of a certain product are grouped together in one area.  This concept makes it easy for importers to source products from China.  If you are sourcing tile from China, here are the main places to investigate.

Foshan, Guangdong province: Foshan is a hub for ceramic tiles.  About 350 ceramic tile producers, with an annual production of about 1.2 billion sq. metres of ceramic tiles, are based in Foshan.  In the past 10 years Foshan has produced 54% of China’s total ceramic tile output, and 25% of the world’s total production of ceramic tiles.

Foshan’s ceramic tile manufacturers continuously work on improving the designs of their ceramic tiles. They thrive to match the quality of ceramic tiles produced in Spain and Italy in order to grow their exports to major Western markets grow.  Today, eight out of the ten China Famous Brands named by the government are based in Foshan, Guangdong Province.

Zibo, Shandong province:  This is where low value and glazed polished tile are mainly produced.  However, since 201,2 the quality of tiles produced in Shandong has improved tremendously.  The cost advantage of the province has been attracting foreign buyers.  Shandong tile exports have reached record highs, so that it now ranks as the third province in China in terms of tile exports.

Comparing with Foshan, Shandong’s tiles are not so high quality but have a lower price.  The main reason is raw materials.  Geography determines that the soil in Shandong is worse than that in Foshan.  Moreover,most Foshan factories use ink imported from Spain or Italy, whereas Shandong factories use local ink in order to save cost.  Advanced production technologies also mean that Foshan’s tile quality is better.

Fujian province.  This is where low-value wall tiles are mainly produced.  Most of the exterior tiles exported by China are produced by small family-owned workshops in this province.  Each workshop would only have about 5 to 10 workers,  that they can offer lower prices.

If you want to import tiles from China, the internet is your easiest option to find suppliers.  Suppliers may be classified either as factories or traders.  Of course, it would be cheaper to source tiles directly from factories, but it can be difficult to discern whether a supplier is a factory or a trader.

On the internet, you will find B2B market places for tiles from China; the most reliable of which is alibaba.com.  Searching through these platforms will provide a wide choice of suppliers.

When sourcing tiles from China, you could either do the entire process yourself or work with a sourcing agent.  A sourcing agent could be an individual or a firm based in China who could do the legwork for you. Sourcing agents can help you source suppliers, negotiate prices, place orders and monitor deliveries.

When you decide to import tiles from China, you should remember that there are certain risks involved. The quality of the product is always an issue when importing from China.  After finding a suitable Chinese tile supplier, the next step is to request for a sample. Suppliers would often send you a sample based on your specifications with the best possible quality. Satisfied with the quality, you would place an order, make the payment and await arrival of the shipment.

The tiles you should receive should be of the best quality based on a specifications that has been agreed with the supplier; and there should also be no breakages during transit.

Chinese products are known for their low cost and, unfortunately, also for different quality levels. Therefore, finding a reliable supplier is most important.  Issues often arise when you discover inconsistencies in your shipment when full payment has already been made.

You are left with only a few options.  Although you can litigate in China, Chinese suppliers are aware that the cost of litigation is often not worth the cost of their shipment, so they simply just shrug this off.

The problem of quality can be avoided, or kept to a minimum, if you work with a tile sourcing agent.  The agent can find the best suppliers, check the quality, do the certification, arrange loading, and all complete export and customs paperwork.  A good agent makes it easy it is to import from China, saving the importer time and energy.

The standard payment terms in China is a 30% deposit before production and the balance upon completion of the order, prior to shipment.  The conditions upon when you should make the final payment can be crucial and, if you have a sourcing agent representative in China, this issue can be avoided.

Payment of orders always poses as a problem for importers of Chinese products.  Although being scammed is only a remote possibility in China, there is always a small possibility that importers can be scammed.  The best way to protect yourself is to make a small order first.  A small order will also give you an idea of how the manufacturer works.

Safe payment options when dealing with Chinese suppliers include telegraphic transfer.  This form of payment is accepted by all suppliers.   It does not, however, offer full protection.  Importers should make sure that they are transferring funds to the official account of the supplier and not to a personal account.

Alibaba Escrow can be used if sourcing from Alibaba.  This option gives importers protection as Alibaba withholds money to the China supplier until the customer receives the goods.  However, not all suppliers accept this mode of payment and it is normally applicable only for small orders.

The PayPal payment option assures the fast receipt of payment to a China supplier.  It is, however, only applicable to very small orders, such as samples.  Another downside is that not all Chinese suppliers accept this form of payment and PayPal also charges high fees.

Another option is paying your Chinese supplier in cash when you come to China.

If you are working with a sourcing agent, he can help place orders, oversee quality control and arrange shipment. Once everything is completed satisfactorily, the sourcing agent firm will pay the supplier.

Another option is a Letter of Credit.  This type of payment does not require the importer to make any deposits to the supplier when orders are usually below $30,000.  A good thing about Letter of Credit is that it places pressure on the supplier to comply with the Order Agreement.  However, not all Chinese tile suppliers accept Letters of Credit, and securing a Letter of Credit from a bank will incur a high fee.

Source: TILE&STONE JOURNAL