73 questions to ask your furniture supplier.
When buying furniture of your furniture supplier in China its nowhere near as simple as you may think. This is why we have compiled this list of 73 questions you ask your furniture supplier before and after buying your furniture.
General questions to ask your furniture supplier in the initial stage
In general, there are some simple questions to ask your furniture supplier such as the ones below to get a general feel of how things are and if working with them is a good idea or not.
- Where is your factory?
- When are you suitable for a factory audit
- Before the final payment, we will have a third party agency inspecting before paying if that is okay?
- Do you participate in any trade shows? (if yes a quick google search will show their name)
- Have you ever participated in any trade shows before if so when? (same as above)
- Can you make a sample? (this question has multiple parts to it)
- Can I pay to your company’s bank account? (You can check the company bank information matches)
- Can I have your address to pick up the sample? (You are double-checking the address is the same, if not red flags are flying)
- How many employees does the factory have? (This question is important! You can tell a lot about their scaleability, from this. For example, does their catalog have 100s of different types of products but they only have a few hundred staff? Make sure the numbers add up)
- Do you have an export license? (All of these facts can be checked up on their Alibaba/global sources account)
- Do you have any customer references from my country? (here you are checking if they are making stuff up or are the real deal, sadly a lot of companies will make up reviews).
- I want to export to X country what regulations are you able to provide? (You are checking they know your local market regulations instead of just saying yes yes yes)
Additional check-ups you can do yourself
So in addition to the 12 questions above, there are also certain extra things you can do to make sure the furniture from your furniture supplier you are getting is top quality.
- Open up google and do a simple search “(company name) scam”
- Check all their online directories such as Alibaba, global sources, made in China, Global market and so on and do a site by site comparison. Do they all check out? Are they all the same? Pay special attention to phone numbers and addresses. If they are different it is again a red flag.
- A bit harder to do but if you have someone who speaks Chinese go and check the Chinese supreme Court’s database. It’ll show any company which has been sentenced to a previous fine and haven’t paid damages yet.
- Get a Chinese lawyer to check out the registration of the company. This is a pretty rapidly growing market with more and more lawyers helping importers to do it.
- Check their references. A lot of Chinese companies make up their references, do a bit of research on what they say and it’ll tell a lot about their company.
If you manage to do these check-ups on all of your furniture suppliers you’ll be onto the right path of knowing who exactly you are working with.
General questions part 2
Now we understand certain parts of these questions you may not feel comfortable asking, however, this guide is to give you a complete list of potential questions to ask to minimize your risk.
So on we go with some more questions to ask your potential furniture supplier.
- Can you tell me a bit of the background on the owner? (normally well-established companies know quite a lot about the big boss and feel quite a bit of pride telling you about them)
- How many employees in total? (before it was the factory but knowing the total amount will give a good idea of how many sales, support staff, etc)
- Please, could you tell me what is your total domestic market sales?
- What is your total export sales? (This will give you a good idea of their real capabilities, in larger companies sometimes the domestic market can be larger than the export market)
- What furniture product do you mainly sell to the X market?
- Which furniture product do you recommend for the X market?
- Which product do you sell best globally?
- What is the main furniture manufacturing process for the X product?
- Are there any parts that are subcontracted out? If so which parts?
- Are there parts of the product which are half-made here?
- What is made entirely in the house?
- Do you accept signing legally binding contracts? (best to get Chinese lawyers involved at this point)
- Are there any products that you have exclusive agreements within the X geographical area?
We have already got to the 25 question stage so naturally, we want to give you some extra things to think about before choosing your furniture supplier.
In their factory its best to take note of what their main product is. For example, if you are looking to buy coffee tables but the majority of their staff/machinery is based on making sofas then its expertise is sofas, not coffee tables.
So you’ve noticed a fantastic piece of furniture in their showroom and want it. Who designed it? Make sure they have the rights to it before buying to save yourself a law case back home.
Alibaba specific questions
So we are guessing if you are talking to someone on Alibaba via email so here’s our own Alibaba email template take on the initial message. (if you google Alibaba email template you’ll find plenty of similar samples)
Subject: Would like some more information about (product name)
My name is (your name), I am representing (company name) we are interesting in receiving more information about (product code and name),
Please could you send a quotation including:
- MOQ (minimum order quantity)
- Images of the product (In addition ask for a specific close up of part the furniture, to ensure they have original images)
- FOB/EXW Price for X amount (most quotations are automatically FOB aka to the nearest port but if you want to collect it directly from the factory specifically mention EXW price)
- FOB/EXW Price for MOQ (to show you how much they are willing to budge on prices)
- Price for a sample (can ask for shipping to be included or not)
- Payment terms
- Payment options accepted
- Production lead time
(your name, company name)
Feel free to copy and paste this email template.
More questions to ask suppliers
Back to question 26.
- What are your sample terms and conditions?
- Do you have a catalog?
- May I have your furniture catalog?
- How many different series do you have?
- How many years of furniture experience do you have?
- Can you add our company logo to the packaging?
- How do you package the furniture?
So far we have had 32 questions which aren’t 100% dedicated to just furniture. Don’t worry the next bunch is.
Furniture specific questions
Next up we have another 25+ question which is more specific to furniture and will help you choose the best supplier for your needs.
- What is the MOQ to work with your company?
- How many different types of furniture can I purchase from you to put into a single container?
- What is EXW furniture price?
- Do you also help with shipping?
- What price is the FOB price?
- What is this furniture weight per piece?
- How will you package the furniture? What care instructions do I need to pay attention to for this furniture?
- What certifications does it have?
- Do you have any other company brand names (many furniture businesses have multiple brands under different company names)
- When was your company established? (The older they are the more established but it also means more fixed rules)
- Do you have an Alibaba or company website? (their company website on average doesn’t give a lot of information but is helpful to learn a little bit more about them)
- What are your main products? (If there are too many types of furniture its a red flag they are a trading company pretending to be a furniture factory)
- Can I see some pictures of your company such as your employees, finished products, office, and factory? (take them and do a google reverse image search to check they aren’t stock images/from another factory)
15 more Furniture sourcing questions
Hopefully, you can already see there are a lot of questions that need to be answered when buying furniture from China. If you would like some help why not let Simonsense do the hard work for you?
- What is your lead time? (How long before it’s done)
- Do you accept customized orders? (check out our other article of OEM manufacturers to learn more)
- What materials will be used to make this furniture?
- Are you able to break down those materials on where they’ll be used?
- What is this furniture measurements in ft./in./cm/mm?
- What is the Cubic meter measurement?
- Where is your factory? (Get the full address for factory inspects and audits)
- How many people work here? (Will give you a scale of their capabilities)
- Have you ever sold to (your) country? If so to who
- What certifications does your company have?
- To what standard quality are you able to make the furniture too?
- What payment schemes do you accept?
- Can I get an invoice for my furniture purchase?
- Do you issue receipts?
- If the furniture is not up to standard will you issue a refund?
- Does the price include taxes?
Okay, so far we have covered over 50 different questions to ask, but what about the shipping part? (This is the final bunch of questions doesn’t worry, we promise)
Shipping furniture questions!
So the questions above are more to do with buying furniture from your furniture supplier, as well some more general questions to ask, the final 11 questions are to help you ensure you get the products back home!
First off let’s start with 6 generic questions to ask about shipping furniture
- How long will it take you to package the furniture?
- What is the timeframe it will take you to ship the furniture?
- What materials will you be using to package the furniture?
- From what port will you be shipping the furniture from?
- What type of container will you be using?
- What guarantees can you give on the safety of the furniture?
- Before shipping can I inspect the furniture to ensure it is the quality I paid for?
Final 8 specific shipping questions
Shipping furniture by itself is a headache and there are some questions which you need to confirm directly with the shipping company you choose.
- Are you fully licensed, insured and bonded? If they cannot prove this DO NOT WORK WITH THEM
- How long is the quoted rate valid for? Shipping costs change day by day, most shipping companies will give you a 30-day quote. If you need to ship on the 31st day that price may change. So always be mindful of how long that price is valid for.
- Are there any extra costs? Sometimes the price is bundled up together, sometimes it is broken down into multiple parts. Either way, there might be some hidden fees they haven’t specifically told you. Check before to make sure you know.
- How to pay? (What type of payment do you accept) Generally, a bank transfer is the most accepted version for Chinese shipping companies but it is always best to check.
- Are these goods accepted into X country? This should have already been checked by the factory and you but it won’t hurt to have one final check before sending them off right?
Hopefully, after you have read all of those questions you’ll be inspired to do more research and hopefully will have a lower chance of being buying from the wrong furniture supplier. To sum up, remember to do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask some more difficult questions.
What do you think of our comments? Do you think we have missed any questions? If so leave them in the comments below and we will add them to the list.
Simonsense is a furniture supply chain management company that specializes in furniture. Simonsen’s has had over 10 years of experience in the furniture industry and supply chain market to help their customers find the best possible deal in terms of price and quality. Contact Simonsense today for a free one-hour consultation and see how we can help your business today.