Exporting baskets and boxes to Europe
The European market for baskets and boxes is growing. Germany and the United Kingdom are especially interesting target markets for you. The mid-mid and mid-high segments offer you the most opportunities. To appeal to consumers in these segments, you should pay attention to design, decoration, craftsmanship and the story behind your baskets and boxes. Sustainability can also add value to your product.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of baskets and boxes?
- What trends offer opportunities on the European market for baskets and boxes?
- With which requirements must baskets and boxes comply to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition do you face on the European baskets and boxes market?
- Which channels can you use to put baskets and boxes on the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for baskets and boxes?
1. Product description
In home decoration, baskets and boxes range under the category of “storage”. Broadly speaking, they can be split into more decorative storage (basketry) and more functional storage (boxes). Both are containers used for putting loose things out of the way and keeping the home tidy. Besides this functional use, baskets in particular have become decorative objects in their own right, sometimes to the extent that their decorative value has become more important than their primary storage function.
This study uses the following codes to indicate trade in baskets and boxes:
Table 1: Product codes
|4602 11||16 29 25 00||Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape from bamboo plaiting materials|
|4602 12||16 29 25 00||Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape from rattan plaiting materials|
|4602 19 90||16 29 25 00||Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape from other vegetable plaiting materials|
|4602 90||16 29 25 00||Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape from non-vegetable plaiting materials|
Besides regular storage use, baskets and boxes are often used as packaging material for food items (such as culinary products or wine), picnic hampers or gift boxes.
- For more information about an alternative use for baskets, see our study about picnic baskets.
Baskets and boxes are multi-purpose and can store almost any item in the home. Consumers use them to keep rooms tidy, protect items from gathering dust, and/or keep items of the same kind together. They can be found around the house: in the living room, bedroom and bathroom (e.g. laundry baskets), kitchen and garden. Baskets and boxes also fulfil a decorative purpose. As such, functional and decorative baskets and boxes can represent different segments.
Baskets and boxes can be made from many different materials, depending on their exact application and origin. Usually they consist of natural fibres (like bamboo or rattan wickerwork), metalware, wood, paper or even synthetics.
Storage boxes are available in various sizes and shapes, usually square or rectangular. Basketry is also available in different shapes and sizes, depending on style and application.
Storage products with a mainly functional purpose are designed to maximise storage space. They should hold a maximum number of items, fit into cupboards or under beds and be stackable. Such products are often sturdy, sometimes with an internal frame. Internal lining is usually added to protect the fibres from deterioration and prevent contact with the content.
Compared to boxes, basketry is the more decorative product group. It distinguishes itself on the basis of aesthetic properties, such as colour, technical mastery (like weaving skills), special materials, dimension or shape. Even the mass segments in basketry are often handmade, where boxes face strong competition from industrially produced products.
Baskets and boxes can be expensive to ship because of their size. Design effort also goes into minimising transport costs by making them flat-pack, nesting or foldable.
- Information on the outer packaging of baskets and boxes should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer.
- External packaging labels for baskets and boxes should include the producer, consignee, material, quantity, size, volume, country of origin and caution signs. They should also show the number of pieces, bale/box identification, total number of bales or boxes and net and gross weight.
- EAN or barcodes on the product label are common in Europe.
- Your buyer will specify what information they need on the product labels or on the item itself, such as logos or “made in…” information. This is part of the order specifications.
- Use the English language for labelling, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.
You should pack baskets and boxes according to the importer’s instructions. They have their own specific requirements for the use of packaging materials, filling boxes, palletisation and stowing containers. Always ask for the importer’s order specifications, which are part of the purchase order.
Properly packaging baskets and boxes minimises the risk of damage by shocks. How an item is packaged for export depends on how easily it can be damaged. Packaging should ensure the items inside a cardboard box cannot damage each other. It should also prevent damage to the boxes when they are stacked inside the container. Packaging therefore usually consists of outer and inner cardboard boxes filled with protective materials like bubble wrap or paper.
Dimensions and weight
Packaging must be of easy-to-handle dimensions and weight. Standards are often related to labour regulations at the point of destination, specified by the buyer. Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport. Make maximum use of pallet space.
Nesting, stacking or flat-packing baskets and boxes inside the container reduces costs. While packing has to provide maximum protection, you must also avoid using excess materials or shipping “air”. Waste removal is a cost to buyers.
Importers are increasingly banning wooden crating and packaging due to their unsustainability and high material and disposal costs. Economical and sustainable packaging materials are becoming more popular. Using biodegradable packing materials can be a market opportunity. For some buyers, it can even be a requirement.
At retail level, baskets and boxes usually come without any packaging. This allows consumers to try the item out and feel the material. In fact, boxes and basketry often function as packaging for foodstuffs such as tea or wine bottles, or contain gifts like teapots or nativity sets.
2. Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of baskets and boxes?
European imports of baskets and boxes have been growing steadily after a slight dip in 2013. The majority are sourced from developing countries. Europe’s main importers of baskets and boxes are Germany and the United Kingdom. Their strong market makes them especially interesting focus countries for developing countries.
Where is consumer demand?
- European demand for baskets and boxes stabilised around €408 million in 2016, after a dip in 2013. This resulted in an average annual growth rate of 0.2% between 2012 and 2016.
- Demand is highest in Germany (€74 million) and the United Kingdom (€71 million).
What is the role of European production in supplying European demand?
- Europe’s demand for baskets and boxes is much higher than its production. This drives imports and makes Europe an interesting market.
- European production of baskets and boxes also recovered from a dip between 2012 and 2016. With an average annual growth rate of 0.8%, it reached €50 million in 2016.
- Poland is Europe’s main baskets and boxes producer, responsible for 42% of production. Italy follows with 22% and France with 10%.
Which countries are most interesting in terms of imports from developing countries?
- European imports of baskets and boxes increased from €426 million in 2012 to €469 million in 2016, despite a slight dip in 2013. The average annual growth rate was 2.4%.
- In the coming years, these imports are expected to keep growing moderately.
- Developing countries supply around 80% of European baskets and boxes imports. This amounted to €364 million in 2016. This share is predicted to be fairly stable in the coming years.
- In reality, much of the import of baskets and boxes from western European countries concerns re-exported products manufactured in developing countries.
- Germany is Europe’s leading importer of baskets and boxes, at €105 million in 2016. The United Kingdom follows at €67 million.
- Germany also leads in imports from developing countries, at €83 million. The United Kingdom follows at €60 million.
- The strong performance of developing country suppliers of baskets and boxes in Germany and the United Kingdom is further evidenced by a €5.9 million and €12 million increase, respectively, between 2012 and 2016.
- Spain and Poland also increased their imports from developing countries, by €2.9 million and €8.0 million respectively.
- China dominates European imports of baskets and boxes, with 51% in 2016. Vietnam (14%) and Indonesia (6.2%) follow. Other up-and-coming suppliers from developing countries include Bangladesh, Madagascar, Morocco and India, currently accounting for around 1% of European imports each.
- Study your options in Germany and the United Kingdom. Their strong imports from developing countries make them especially interesting markets.
- Italy, Poland and Hungary have a growing market for baskets and boxes from developing countries, which also makes them promising.
- Compare your products and company to the strong competition from China, as well as from Vietnam and Indonesia. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country. You can compare on market segment, price, quality and target countries.
What role does export play in supplying European demand?
- European exports of baskets and boxes consist mainly of trade within Europe.
- The Netherlands (€39 million) and Germany (€36 million) are Europe’s leading exporters of baskets and boxes.
What effect does real private consumption expenditure have on European demand?
- Private consumption expenditure is an important indicator for the European home decoration market. The sector is closely linked to economic conditions. When money is tight, consumers postpone buying non-essential items until they have enough disposable income.
- Between 2017 and 2019, European private consumption expenditure is expected to increase, so consumption of decorative products is likely to rise. Especially in emerging markets, consumers will have more money available to spend on decorating the home. Consumers in mature markets already spend a fair amount of money on decoration, so growth in their consumption will be moderate.
3. What trends offer opportunities on the European market for baskets and boxes?
Baskets and boxes offer good solutions for de-cluttering homes
European consumers increasingly struggle with the combination of small urban living spaces and high levels of consumption. They are embracing baskets and boxes as a welcome aid in achieving and maintaining a tidy home. With excess items neatly stored in boxes, consumers create physical space as well as “headspace”, helping them to relieve stress.
The functional segment requires practical storage solutions. Important aspects include a good price, easy availability (intensive distribution), as well as durability and cleaning options in case of natural materials.
The decorative segment places beauty above functionality and is less price-sensitive. Consumers of these products are willing to shop around and pay attention to the stories behind the products.
- Decide on your position in the market for storage and basketry and develop your marketing mix accordingly. Your choice will affect margins, order volumes, communication strategies and logistics.
The global citizen is open to unheard stories
As European consumers are increasingly travelling to more distant places, they are exposed to new stories. Due to its very nature, basketry has always had a strong link to the origin of ethnic groups or regions. Africa has a strong tradition in basketry, from the Kenyan kiondo to the Ghanaian bolga basket, the Zulu graphics or the raffia basketry from Madagascar. Asia also has a tradition in basketry, as do some Latin American cultures.
In short, basketry embodies “origin” in its materials, techniques and meanings. It has cultural stories to tell. The modern-day consumer has a renewed interest in producers’ stories, meaning you can create added value.
- Use local materials, techniques and designs in your products.
- If your products have a unique origin and/or story, communicate the details in terms of special techniques, materials, producers, processes or meanings. This may add value to your concept and your importer’s.
Handmade can go premium
A similar source of added value is the European home decoration market’s renewed appreciation of handmade techniques in natural materials. This may be strengthened by the loss of craft skills in Europe, as well as a growing weariness with standardised, mass, industrial products. Therefore, handmade has the potential to go premium.
- Show your craftsmanship by using intricate weaves, patterns or shapes.
- Clearly communicate the creative process in your promotion (catalogue, website, product tags, trade fairs).
- Invest in experimentation to increase the levels of the craftsmanship of your artisans and your products, as well as to expand and refresh your range. In decorative basketry, quality perception is directly related to your product’s aesthetic level.
- Showcase the handmade aspect of your products by using organic, free shapes rather than rigid forms that resemble industrial production.
Downward price spirals are a challenge
A specific countertrend is the commoditisation of baskets and boxes, especially in the functional segment. Particularly in the lower ends of the market this is due to the dominance of a few large-scale suppliers from the Far East. In exchange for volume, they are able to accept small margins by fine-tuning their processes and/or squeezing production costs.
This has driven down overall price levels and led the consumer to see storage boxes, in particular, as low-priced items, expecting to get “a lot for little” (sets of boxes). This makes the room for distinction in the lower-end market very small.
Prices are also under pressure in the mid-end market. Here the basket has become an image item for some typical mid-market styles like cottage, colonial or romantic/nostalgic. Players in this segment often struggle to distinguish themselves from their competitors. As a consequence products in this segment tend to look alike, with their typical whitewash, lettering and inside fabric lining. This has resulted in price pressure, a marked decrease in product quality and a lower value perception.
- If you wish to target the volume market despite the strong competition, focus on operational excellence. Be efficient in your purchasing, inward and outward logistics, productivity and overhead management. Create economies of scale.
- Wickerwork is used indoors and outdoors throughout the seasons, but the raw materials are seasonal. If you can overcome the materials’ seasonality through effective drying and curing facilities, you will have a competitive advantage.
- Be meticulous and consistent in your style if you target the mid-end market. Study the relevant style(s) and assist your main buyers by taking the initiative in product development to help them stand out in a market under pressure.
The project market provides opportunities
The European hospitality market appears to be healthy enough and storage products have a firm place in it. This segment offers opportunities in both functional inexpensive basketry and statement pieces. Functional items include laundry baskets or tissue boxes, whereas oversized or extravagant shapes can be used to decorate hotel lobbies or other settings.
The catering and food market has also discovered hand-made packaging as an added value to food ingredients, such as loose tea or gift boxes for consumers or employees, a boxed teapot and cups, or a Christmas hamper.
- Study developments in tourism to understand where the market for hotels and resorts is heading. See, for example, EHL’s Hospitality Insights and their article on The Future of Hotel Design.
- When focusing on the project and gift market, make sure to meet the functional and health and safety requirements, especially when the storage product comes into contact with food. For more information, see our study about buyer requirements for Home Decoration & Home Textiles including regulations on Food Contact Materials.
Artificial fibres threaten natural materials in lower-end segments
Baskets and boxes come in many materials – from plastic to wicker, wood, paper, metal or fabric – depending on the exact application. Two current opposing trends are the appreciation of natural products and materials, and the use of artificial fibres. This is especially the case for furniture, but increasingly also applies to woven items like basketry.
Weaving is popular, but technical expertise can also be demonstrated using artificial fibres. These materials offer increased durability and resistance to dust, dirt and climatic influences, while having the aesthetics of a natural product. This type of replacement is a particularly important issue at the lower ends of the market, where function and price are key.
- Bring out the design value and aesthetic benefits of your natural fibres in the look and feel and communication of your product.
- Add synthetic fibres to your core materials or focus on natural fibres, depending on your target market. Consider the implications of your choice in terms of positioning, costs, margins and production process.
New, upcoming markets
Within Europe, Eastern European countries are slowly developing an appreciation for decorating the home. Globally, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are often mentioned as the places destined for future demographic and economic growth. Clearly, the huge urban conglomerates expected in the coming decades will be mainly concentrated in the southern hemisphere. This will also “re-map” consumer power.
At European trade fairs, we are already witnessing an influx of commercial buyers from such “new” consumer countries as India, South Africa, Russia and China, as well as countries in the Middle East. Consumers in these markets value imported goods, but still tend to spend cautiously on home decoration. They are price-sensitive and first and foremost looking for functionality.
- Consider regional sales by participating in nearby trade fairs.
- Work out new strategies with your European buyer(s) for penetrating new, global markets. They are already well equipped in marketing and often already have a reputation (“brand”) and foothold in such emerging markets, which may create a win-win situation.
Interest in sustainability is increasing
A major trend in storage is the product’s sustainability. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases.
For baskets and boxes in natural materials, sustainability issues are related to:
- natural, renewable resources
- water treatment
- dyeing and labour circumstances and/or conditions of weavers and producers
- the production process
- transport and energy consumption
- use and waste/disposal practices.
Steps towards a greener product and process are possible and may add value in marketing. Sustainability projects have also taken place, to make the entire value chain of basketry and furniture made of natural fibres environmentally and socially sustainable. Attempts by WWF, ITC, UNIDO, TU Delft and CBI in the Vietnamese Mekong area are an example.
Basketry is traditionally an integral part of the fair-trade segment, especially handmade items with a sense of origin, depicting ethnic patterns, weaving techniques or unique materials. Such basketry is often made by women in rural areas. It lends itself well to telling the story about the importance of meaningful work and income in developing countries. This has undoubtedly kept interesting weaving skills alive in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- Assess what you are already doing in terms of sustainability and communicate this to your importer. Make an action plan for further improvements.
- Consider certification where it makes commercial sense.
- For more information, see our special study on sustainability.
For more information, see our study about trends for Home Decoration & Home Textiles.
4. With which requirements must baskets and boxes comply to be allowed on the European market?
With which legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply?
General product safety
The European Union’s General Product Safety Directive applies to all consumer products, including baskets and boxes. It states that all products marketed in Europe must be safe to use.
- Read more about the General Product Safety Directive.
- Use your common sense to ensure normal use of your product does not cause any danger.
- The RAPEX database lists products that the European Union has rejected at the border or withdrawn from the market. Check the database for similar products for an idea of what issues may arise.
Europe has specific packaging and packaging waste legislation. It for instance restricts the use of certain heavy metals. Europe also has requirements for wood packaging materials (WPM) used for transport, such as packing cases, boxes, crates, drums, (box) pallets and dunnage.
- Read more in the overview of EU rules on wood packaging material.
Restricted chemicals: REACH
The REACH regulation lists restricted chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe. For example, REACH restricts the use of arsenic and creosotes as wood preservatives.
- The European Chemical Agency provides useful information and tips on REACH. See for instance REACH Annex XVII for a list of all restricted chemicals. Also check out the Information on REACH for companies established outside Europe and the Questions & Answers on REACH.
Wildlife Trade Regulations and the Timber Regulation
The Wildlife Trade Regulations restricts the international trade in specimens of wild animals, plants and derived wildlife products. This is the European Union’s strict implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). According to the Timber Regulation, you must prove any timber used was harvested legally. Products with a FLEGT or CITES licence comply with the Timber Regulation.
- For more information, see the Reference Guide to the Wildlife Trade Regulations and the Frequently Asked Questions about the Timber Regulation.
- For more information on CITES permits, you can contact your National CITES Management Authority.
- For more information about FLEGT licensing, see the FLEGT licence information point.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
Social and environmental sustainability make your products stand out on the European market. Consider sustainable raw materials and production processes. European buyers increasingly demand the following certification schemes.
- Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI): European retailers developed this initiative to improve social conditions in sourcing countries. They expect their suppliers to comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct. To prove compliance, the importer can request an audit of your production process. Once a company has been audited, it is included in a database for all BSCI participants.
- Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI): This initiative is an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations. It aims to improve the working lives of people across the globe who make or grow consumer goods.
- Optimise your sustainability performance. Reading up on the issues included in the initiatives will give you an idea of what to focus on.
- Buyers appreciate a good story. If you can show that you value your company’s environmental and/or social performance, this may be a competitive advantage. Consider a self-assessment like the BSCI Self-Assessment for Producers, or a code of conduct, such as the BSCI Code of Conduct or the ETI base code.
- For more information, see our special study on Sustainability in the Home Sector.
What are the requirements for niche markets?
The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially when the production of your baskets and boxes is labour-intensive, fair-trade certification can give you a competitive advantage.
Common fair-trade certifications are from:
- Ask buyers what they are looking for. Especially in the fair-trade sector, you can use the story behind your product for marketing purposes.
- Check the ITC Standards map database for more information on voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification is the most common label for sustainable wooden products, including wooden boxes. The FSC label guarantees that a product’s source material comes from responsibly managed forests. These products are especially popular in western European markets.
- For more information, see the three steps towards FSC certification.
For more information, see our study about buyer requirements for Home Decoration & Home Textiles.
5. What competition do you face on the European baskets and boxes market?
The competition for baskets and boxes does not differ significantly from the sector in general. Refer to our 10 tips for doing business with European buyers.
6. Which channels can you use to put baskets and boxes on the European market?
The market channels and segments for baskets and boxes do not differ significantly from the sector in general.
Baskets and boxes are commonly imported by importers in lifestyle segments. That is to say importer-wholesalers who offer a full collection for the home, across the various categories and for inside and around the home. They resell through general retailers and department stores. A particularly strong role is played by garden centres, who usually stock plenty of basketry. Storage is also sold through online business-to-consumer platforms.
E-commerce in home decoration is increasing and can help you reach a broader range of customers. Retailers often combine online and offline channels. Consumers research and purchase products online, shopping around and comparing prices on home decoration items. To supply e‑commerce retailers you must be able to work with individual packing and labelling, as well as limited minimum orders.
- See our special study about E-commerce in Home Decoration & Home Textiles for more information.
- Target online business-to-consumer retailers if you can meet the additional requirements.
The following trade fairs are useful sources for finding trading partners in Europe.
- Ambiente, Frankfurt, February
- Christmas World, Frankfurt, January
- Maison et Objet, Paris, January (main fair) and September
- Tendence, Frankfurt, August
The market for baskets and boxes is segmented into a low, mid and high-end market.
- Low-end market: The focus is on convenience and high volumes. Baskets and boxes in this segment are purely functional, with a basic shape, material and price. Low-end products can be found in many different types of outlets, from general interior stores to supermarkets and lower-end department stores.
- Mid-end market: Products are trendier, responding to colour and decoration trends in the general home decoration sector. Some attention is devoted to new innovative shapes or handmade effects. These products are mainly sold at general “lifestyle” stores and mid-segment department stores.
- High-end/premium market: Design, decoration and brand names are the main sales arguments. Higher-end storage turns the box or basket into a decorative piece in its own right, where it can almost lose its practical purpose and just becomes a fun or beautiful object to look at.
The mid-mid and mid-high markets offer you the most opportunities. To enter these segments you need to pay special attention to design, decoration and hand weaving.
7. What are the end-market prices for baskets and boxes?
Table 2 gives an overview of the prices of baskets and boxes in the low, middle and high market segments.
Table 2: Indicative consumer prices of baskets and boxes
|Baskets||Below €10 (usually in sets)||€10–55||Over €55|
|Boxes||Below €10 (usually in sets)||€10–30||Over €30|
Consumer prices depend on the value perception by the consumer in a particular segment. This is influenced by your marketing mix: product benefits, promotion (brand or not, communication of product benefits), points of sale (reseller positioning), and a matching price.
Shipping, import and handling add 25% to the price of your baskets and boxes. Wholesalers account for a further 100% markup. Finally, retailers may add another 100–150% to the price.
- The value perception of your product in the chosen segment determines its price. The quality and price of your baskets and boxes must match what is expected in your chosen target segment. To determine your price, study consumer prices in your target segment. Adjust your cost accordingly.
- Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.
Please review our market information disclaimer.