Style Notes with Allison: Overseas BuyingSIF Stories
The world of furniture and accessories is a magical place. One of the best parts of my job is working with and visiting our trusted overseas partners to discover and buy new products for Canadian retailers and designers.
When I started Style In Form, I wanted our products to be unique and stylish, but also accessible to Canadian consumers. As a general rule, I focus on keeping our product mix on trend but not too trendy so that our pieces can fit easily into a variety of interiors. I’m always thinking about what new products to bring in and love having conversations with our customers about what they are looking for and loving for the home.
Our customers tell us that it’s important for them to work with a supplier who has an ethical approach to sourcing products and that knowing where products come from is meaningful. So with that in mind, I am sharing some of the top questions I get asked about our process for sourcing and buying products from our overseas partners.
What countries do you shop overseas?
We have partners in India, Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Indonesia.
What is the process for buying overseas products?
I usually visit suppliers once or twice a year and love seeing them face-to-face. We’ve built long term relationships with our suppliers and know that nurturing that relationship is important.
Some of our partners don’t have showrooms or attend trade shows so I spend a lot of time working with them via phone and email, scouting out and developing new products. When the samples are ready, they ship them to us along with our regular container order. Then we test that product with our customers. This process can take months from start to finish and we’re always under constant deadlines working to have these samples to show our customers at key to-the-trade furniture trade shows in Canada.
What are the biggest challenges with overseas buying?
Lead times for production
Lead times can vary for each country, even each supplier
You also have to plan for unforeseen delays like quality issues where products are pulled off the line, weather, including monsoon season and holidays including Chinese New Year. As a team, we are continually planning for these challenges so that we can avoid any major disruptions to our customers.
This can get complicated!
There are rules for bringing goods into Canada so we have to be up-to-date on all the regulations. For examples, we cannot import untreated wood or any item made with animal byproducts including feathers. That means we need to make sure we know all the components of an item we are purchasing and check in with our customs broker before finalizing any purchases.
It can be difficult to vet new suppliers but it’s something we take very seriously. We make sure we do our due diligence in researching them before we purchase.
It’s important that suppliers not only have quality
What is it like to source sustainable products overseas?
We think a lot about sustainability and are always on the lookout for products that are sourced ethically.
It is difficult to find overseas furniture manufacturers that use recycled materials. All of the teak furniture we offer is reclaimed wood, we’re bringing in a new recycled leather bench, and our next buying trip to India includes a visit to a factory making recycled wood furniture.
Shop: Reclaimed Teak Furniture
At the end of the day it’s all about partnerships
A day doesn’t go by that I am not thinking about or planning for new products. Our overseas furniture manufacturing partners are critical to our success and I am thankful for their support and creativity over the years.
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