Last Updated on August 15, 2021

A Guide To Importing Houseware: Is It Worth It?

Zac Houghton

Zac Houghton

Construction expert and founder of Loftera.

You don’t need to look at cost-of-living comparisons to know that the UK is one of the most expensive places to live. It has never been much of a secret, in spite of our strong currency. For this reason, savvy shoppers now consider buying goods abroad and shipping them home. Some even do so with their homeware.

The logic is sound: homeware abroad is cheap, even in the local currencies. Buying with pounds gives you a huge advantage. In theory, you would benefit from buying just about everything abroad.

However, the theory hits some snags when you start looking at the related costs. It’s not just shipping that can get expensive. Import taxes are prohibitive, and there is also the matter of converting currency.

What are the best countries to buy homeware? Is it really worth it to import goods from abroad rather than spending the high amounts back home?

This quick guide to importing houseware will give you insight into just how worthwhile it is to start shopping abroad.


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Table of Contents

The best country for furniture: Indonesia

Indonesia might be one of the biggest countries in the world with one of the biggest populations, but most Westerners know very little about it. However, one thing anyone looking for furniture immediately learns is that Indonesian furniture is some of the best in the world. At any good furniture store anywhere in the world, you will find beautiful items imported from Indonesia.

These items are not cheap in the UK, but if you go to Bali or Yogyakarta, you’ll find vendors selling incredible furniture at incredible prices. This is especially true for British travellers, as 1 pound sterling is equal to almost 20,000 Indoneisan rupiahs!

Of course, context is important, but even when you knock off a few zeros, you can buy the same furniture in Indonesia for a fraction of the price that you would buy it back home. The good news about Indoneisan furniture is that it is of great quality, with the best woods used and craftsmen using expertise built over thousands of years.

The best country for appliances: Hong Kong

Back in the day, Hong Kong was the place to go for the most high tech gadgets available. That was before technology became both so accessible and so monopolised. Today, Apple, Samsung, and other big companies are creating the smart tech that everyone wants, their massive success making life difficult for companies without nearly as much money. And, even though many products are made in Hong Kong, buying them there will not save you much money as prices are, to some extent, standardised on a global scale.

However, if you are not looking for the newest phone or laptop, Hong Kong is a great place to buy tech. There, you will find appliances with all the features you could possibly want at a much lower price than you would in the UK. The problem is that to get the best products at the best prices, you have to shop around, and that is really difficult to do online.

In other words, if you are in Hong Kong, you can find appliances cheaper than anywhere else and ship them home. But if you want to import quality items, you’ll struggle to tell a ripoff from a deal.

The best region for trinkets: Southeast Asia

In terms of home decor, prices in the UK are remarkably high. In countries in Southeast Asia, however, you will find beautiful pieces at unbelievable prices. You can find artwork for all the walls of your home at the price you would pay for a single artwork by a popular British artist.

Different countries have very different styles, not all of which you’ll like. It is also going to be difficult to find quality pieces online that aren’t being sold at a huge markup, so shopping for decor in Southeast Asia is best done in person.

Now that we have an idea of where we should be shopping for homeware, let’s have a look at the costs.

Shipping costs (during the pandemic)

The money you would pay for shipping is always going to undermine the savings you get from shopping overseas. Big items in particular are expensive to ship and furniture may be damaged along the way.

During the pandemic, shipping costs have gotten even higher, with restrictions making the process more difficult and costly. While it may seem like the pandemic is ending, that is not the case everywhere in the world. Countries in Southeast Asia in particular are facing troubling times, with no clear end in sight.

As such, shipping costs will remain high for the foreseeable future.

Import taxes

After shipping costs, you still need to consider import taxes. Import taxes are levied on any items valued at more than €150. These may include:

  • Customs Duty
  • Excise Duty
  • Anti-Dumping Duty
  • Countervailing Duty
  • VAT

While these taxes will sometimes be waived for people moving to the UK and bringing their personal belongings, the same will not apply to people buying goods for personal use.

Money transfer costs

One of the expenses people worry about is the cost of international money transfer. After all, there are fees for currency exchange, and while you may find a good exchange rate online, your bank will not necessarily meet that rate.

However, there are other means to transfer large amounts. You can use a money transfer company that takes minimal fees and commissions and gives you the best rates possible. These companies provide a service that is cheaper and faster than those provided by big banks, specifically for people who have to make or receive regular payments abroad.

The money transfer costs do come into play, but with a money transfer company, they are insignificant when put in context of shipping costs and import taxes. They are not going to be decisive in whether shopping for homeware overseas is worth it.

Importing homeware: Is it worth it?

The simple answer to whether importing homeware is worth it is no. Outlets which import furniture and similar items and sell them at high markups have extensive logistics in place, as well as trade partnerships with vendors. Trying to do it on your own will be a lot more difficult, and if you do manage to save some money, it is unlikely to be worth the effort. The associated costs are just too high.

Furthermore, when you import goods yourself, you lose the opportunity to make returns or have faulty items fixed. Damages to goods during shipping become your problem, rather than that of a store with the resources to absorb these inevitabilities.

If you happen to be in Hong Kong or Southeast Asia, shop around for appliances and decor for your home. This can be incredibly worthwhile, even if you don’t save money, as you get items you can’t get in the UK. But remember to keep import taxes in mind when buying anything over €150, as they can make the whole endeavour so much more expensive.