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Entering the European market for vases

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The European market for vases offers opportunities, but competition is strong. As mass-producing countries dominate the lower ends of the market, the mid-end segment is your best option – particularly the mid-high segment. To appeal to these consumers, you need to add value to your products through design, craftsmanship and sustainability. Entering the European market means you need to comply with the European Union’s mandatory (legal) requirements, as well as any additional or niche requirements your buyers may have.

1. What requirements must vases comply with to be allowed on the European market?

The following requirements apply to vases on the European market. For a more detailed overview, see our study on buyer requirements for Home Decorations and Home Textile (HDHT).

What are mandatory requirements?

When exporting to Europe, you must comply with the following legal requirements:

  • General Product Safety Directive
  • REACH
  • Timber Regulation
  • Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive

General Product Safety Directive

Europe’s General Product Safety Directive is a framework legislation, stating that all products marketed in the European Union must be safe to use. If there are no specific legal requirements established for your product and its use, the General Product Safety Directive still applies. If specific requirements do apply, the Directive applies in addition to those, covering additional safety aspects that may not have been described specifically.

Unsafe products are rejected at the European border or withdrawn from the market. The European Union has introduced a rapid alert system (Safety Gate) to list such products.

Tips:

  • Read more about the General Product Safety Directive.
  • Use your common sense to ensure that normal use of your product does not cause any danger.
  • Check the Safety Gate alerts for vases and other objects made of your specific material for an idea of what issues may arise.

Restricted chemicals: REACH

The REACH regulation (EC 1907/2006) lists restricted chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe.

Restricted chemicals in the production of vases include:

  • lead in the paints and glazing of ceramics
  • arsenic and creosotes as wood preservatives

Tips:

Timber Regulation

The European Union’s Timber Regulation (EUTR) counters the trade of illegally harvested timber and products with three obligations.

When placing timber on the European market for the first time:

  1. illegally harvested timber and products derived from such timber are prohibited
  2. European traders must exercise ‘due diligence

Once on the market, the timber and timber products may be sold and/or transformed before they reach the final consumer. To facilitate the traceability of timber products, economic operators in this part of the supply chain (referred to as traders in the regulation) have an obligation to:

  1. keep records of their suppliers and customers

The EUTR covers a wide range of timber products listed in its Annex, using EU Customs code nomenclature. Products with a FLEGT or CITES license comply with the EUTR, meaning they are exempt from the due diligence obligation.

Tips:

Packaging legislation

Europe has specific packaging and packaging waste legislation. EU Directive 94/62/EC aims to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging and packaging waste on the environment. Buyers may therefore ask you to minimise the use of packaging materials (paper, carton, plastic) or to use, for example, recycled materials.

Europe also has requirements for wood packaging materials (WPM) used for transport, such as:

  • packing cases
  • boxes
  • crates
  • drums
  • (box) pallets
  • dunnage

All wood packaging material and dunnage from non-European Union countries must be:

  • heat treated or fumigated in line with International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM15)
  • officially marked with the ISPM15 stamp and the IPPC logo
  • debarked

These requirements do not apply to:

  • wood 6mm thick or less
  • wood packaging material made entirely from processed wood produced using glue, heat and pressure such as plywood, oriented strand board and veneer
  • wood packaging material used in trade within the European Union

The objective is to prevent organisms that are harmful to plants or plant products from being introduced into and spreading within the European Union. It also regulates imports from third countries in line with international plant health standards. Keep this in mind when you decide on the packaging of your vases.

Tips:

What additional requirements do buyers often have?

Sustainability

Social and environmental sustainability make your products stand out on the European market. Think of sustainable raw materials and production processes, as well as the impact your company has on the environment, the wellbeing of your workers and society as a whole. Buyers appreciate good storytelling to create an emotional connection with their customers.

An increasing number of European buyers would like you to comply with the following 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 is 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 that make or grow consumer goods.
  • Sedex: this membership organisation strives to improve working conditions in global sourcing chains. It offers a collaborative platform where you can share information on your ethical and labour standards with (potential) buyers, based on a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).

You can use standards such as ISO 14001 and SA 8000 to read up on sustainable options. However, only niche market buyers demand compliance with such standards.

This increasing importance of sustainability is reflected in a recent Maison et Objet Barometer, where 62% of HDHT retailers have noticed growing interest from their customers in ethical products. They indicate that 92% of their customers think natural materials are (very) important, 77% value socially responsible production methods, and 71% care about recyclable/recycled materials.

Tips:

  • Optimise your sustainability performance. Reading up on the issues included in the initiatives such as BSCI and ETI will give you an idea of what to focus on.
  • If you can show your sustainability performance, this may give you a competitive advantage. For instance with a self-assessment like the BSCI Producer Self-Assessment and Sedex’ SAQ, or a code of conduct such as the ETI base code.
  • For more information, see our special study on sustainability.

Crystalline Silica

Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) can cause lung cancer through inhalation. The ceramics industry mostly uses crystalline silica in the form of quartz and cristobalite. Although European legislation cannot regulate working conditions in non-European countries, European buyers care about worker safety. They may demand good handling of crystalline silica during production.

Labelling

The information on the outer packaging of vases should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer. The external packaging labels for vases should include:

  • producer name
  • consignee name
  • quantity
  • size
  • volume
  • caution signs

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. It is common in Europe to use EAN or barcodes on the product label. Labelling should be in English, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.

Packaging specifications

Importer specifications

You should pack vases 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 packaging specifications. These are part of the purchase order.

Damage prevention

Proper packaging minimises the risk of damage caused by shocks. How an item is packaged for export depends on how easily it can be damaged. Packaging should ensure that 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 inner and outer cardboard boxes. The inner boxes are filled with materials to protect the products (such as bubble wrap or paper, depending on the buyer).

If you produce wooden vases, you need to properly dry the wood after production to prevent mould or cracks. Condensation inside the container during transport can also cause mould. This is caused by humid air that becomes colder at night and warmer during the day. You need proper air ventilation inside the container to prevent this. Before shipment, you must inspect containers for air holes. You can also place products to reduce humidity amongst the cargo. Make sure to follow the importer’s instructions.

Dimensions and weight

Packaging must be easy to handle in terms of dimensions and weight. Standards are often related to labour regulations at the point of destination and must be specified by the buyer.

Cost reduction

Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport, and you have to maximise the use of pallet space. Nesting or stacking vases inside the container reduces costs. Consider this when designing your products.

While packaging has to provide maximum protection, you must also avoid using excess materials or shipping ‘air’. Waste removal is a cost for buyers.

You can reduce the amount and diversity of packing materials by:

  • partitioning inside the boxes, using folded cardboard
  • matching inner and outer boxes by using standard sizes
  • considering packing and logistical requirements when designing your products
  • asking your buyer for alternatives

Material

Importers are increasingly banning wooden crating and packaging due to its unsustainability and high material and disposal costs. Economical and sustainable packaging materials are more popular. Using biodegradable packaging materials can be a market opportunity. For some buyers, it can even be a requirement.

Consumer packaging

Vases can be attractive gifts. Gift boxes are an option, especially where branding is important. Retailers and brands will then either request specific packaging design or take care of that themselves at destination. This generally depends on the cost involved and the quality of packaging you can offer.  

Tips:

  • Always ask the importer’s order specifications, packaging and labelling requirements.
  • See Packaging Europe for more information on the latest packaging developments, including regular news articles about biodegradable packaging.

Payment and delivery terms

Payment terms are usually agreed upon with the buyer in the order contract. They vary from buyer to buyer and are related to the volume and value of the order, the type of distribution partner, whether or not an agent is involved, and what delivery terms apply.

Delivery terms, officially known as Incoterms, depend on the type of distribution partner and their preferences regarding physical distribution. Importers generally prefer Free On Board (FOB) or Free Carrier (FCA) arrangements.

FOB is restricted to goods transported by sea or inland waterway. It means that the seller pays for transportation of the goods to the port of shipment, plus loading costs. The buyer pays the cost of marine freight transport, insurance, unloading and transportation from the arrival port to the final destination. FCA can be used for any transportation mode. In this type of arrangement, the seller fulfils his obligation to deliver when he has handed over the goods, cleared for export, into the charge of the carrier named by the buyer at the specified place or point.

Retail multiples can ask for Cost Insurance Freight (CIF). That means they will ask you to include the shipping and insurance charges in your quotation. Small retailers may go a step further and ask you to arrange for the goods to be delivered to their doorstep via a Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) arrangement. For importers who consolidate orders in your country, Ex Works (EXW) terms are often best.

Tips:

  • For a more elaborate overview of the various terms and conditions, how to work with them, and the benefits of having your own, see our study on terms and conditions.
  • Study the different types of Incoterms, including what your and your buyer’s rights and obligations are.

What are the requirements for niche markets?

Fair trade

According to the World Economic Forum, 86% of people want significant change to make the world fairer and more sustainable after COVID-19. The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially if the production of your vases is labour intensive, fair-trade certification can give you a competitive advantage. Common fair-trade certifications are issued by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and Fair for Life.

Tips:

  • Ask buyers what they are looking for. Especially in the fair-trade sector, you can use the story behind your product for marketing purposes.
  • If certification is not feasible, work according to fair-trade principles without being officially guaranteed or certified. Carefully document your company processes so you can support your story.
  • Check the ITC Standards Map database for more information on voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.

Sustainable wood

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification is the most common label for sustainable wooden products, including vases. The FSC chain of custody certification guarantees that a product’s source material comes from responsibly managed forests. These products are especially popular in Western European markets.

PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is another option. Like with FSC, the PEFC chain of custody certification verifies that the certified forest-based material contained in a product comes from sustainably managed forests.

Because these certification programmes are aligned with the EUTR, they also provide a means of showing legal compliance.

Tips:

2. Through what channels can you get vases on the European market?

The European vase market is segmented into low, mid and high-end (premium) segments. The items are put on the market through the traditional channels: importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers, as well as retailers that buy directly from suppliers.

How is the end market segmented?

Figure 1: Vase market segmentation in Europe

Vase market segmentation in Europe

Low-end market

The low-end market contains everyday basics. Vases in this segment are functional, affordable and often sold in sets. They are easily available from general interior stores like IKEA and hypermarkets such as Carrefour. This market is dominated by mass-produced items from countries such as China, which are hard to compete with. Instead, the (higher) mid-end market offers you, as a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) from a developing country, the most opportunities.

Mid-end market

Vases in the mid-end market are trendy and come in familiar shapes at friendly prices. Designs for this segment generally focus on decorative aspects such as shape, decoration and colour. Especially in the mid-high market, where there is a market for (semi‑) handmade items, design and craftsmanship are more prominent and innovative. Your sustainable values and the story behind your products also increasingly appeal to consumers in the mid-end market. Examples of retailers in this segment are Zara Home and Habitat.

High-end/premium market

The high-end/premium segment is much smaller, as the commercial market for vases usually ends at mid-high. This luxury top-segment is characterised by premium materials, such as crystal or aluminium. The vases are often handmade, using intricate techniques, and have innovative shapes. Heritage brands and top-end designers play an important role in this market, which includes timeless ‘modern classics’ such as Iittala’s Aalto vases.

Figure 2: Iittala – glass Iittala x Issey Miyake and Aalto vases

Source: Iittala @ YouTube

Through what channels do vases end up on the end market?

The channels through which vases are put on the market follow the traditional patterns: import takes place via importers/wholesalers that supply to retailers. Larger retail chains often bypass the importers/wholesalers and import themselves, while more and more smaller retailers have also started buying directly from the supplier. In some cases, buying agents play a role. Below, the main actors in the market for vases are highlighted.

Figure 3: Trade channels for vases in Europe

Trade channels for garden furniture in Europe

Importers/wholesalers

Importers/wholesalers sell products to retailers in their own country or region, or re-export to the broader European continent. Some European markets are therefore supplied by wholesalers/importers from other European countries (internal European trade). Supply to buyers in the project market (such as hotels and spas) can be considered as a secondary distribution flow for European importing wholesalers.

These importers/wholesalers take care of the import procedures. They take ownership of the goods when they buy from an exporter (as opposed to agents), taking on the risk of the onward sale of the products. Developing a long-term relationship can lead to a high level of cooperation on appropriate designs for the market, new trends, use of materials, type of finishing and quality requirements.

Importing retailers

Retailers come in many sizes: large and part of a chain, or small and independent. Especially larger retail chains often import directly from their suppliers in developing countries. Many, such as IKEA, even have their own buying offices in developing countries. Others, mainly the smaller independent stores, order in Europe from wholesalers.

There is a tendency for consolidation in European retail. Large retail brands are becoming more widespread in Europe and more ‘lifestyle-centred’, offering home decoration and textiles as well as fashion accessories and furniture.

Buying agents, buying houses and sales agents

You can encounter several types of intermediaries in your dealings with European buyers. In your own country there may be buying houses, and in Europe there are both buying and sales agents.

European buying agents represent European buyers in sourcing countries. They act as intermediaries, meaning they do not import products themselves. Sometimes agents have a more limited role, such as checking the quality of the products in your warehouse on behalf of a specific importer or checking the codes of conduct that you have agreed on with your buyer. Buying agents can work individually or as part of purchasing companies.

Buying houses are comparable to buying agents, but they are based in your country and usually have a broader spectrum of services. This can range from raw material sourcing to design and sampling services.

European sales agents can represent you in helping to find buyers in the European market. However, you should be careful before entering into (exclusive) agreements with them, as European legislation is quite protective when it comes to the position of commercial agents.

Agents and buying houses mostly operate based on commission. They may approach you directly, or your (potential) buyer could indicate they prefer working through an intermediary. However, if possible, working directly with a buyer is preferable. This saves on commission and allows you to communicate directly with the buyer.

E-commerce

E-commerce in the HDHT sector is increasing and can help you reach a broader range of customers. However, it is important to understand that for most producers this is not a completely separate channel in itself and that catering to buyers that sell online does not differ from your regular business. Retailers often combine online and offline channels but the way of supplying them is the same. Companies that only sell online also need to take stock before they can sell, but will be cautious not to overstock.

Channelling online sales via your own website would mean:

  • supplying small batches/individually packaged items, and being prepared to pre-stock and offer more just-in-time supply concepts
  • needing to be found in a crowded space of European and producer country wholesalers and retailers that are ahead of the game in understanding and responding to online consumers’ needs
  • being able to deal with aftersales on a B2C level, including returns and replacing items

Because of this, selling online to consumers in Europe is not feasible for most exporters from developing countries.

Tips:

  • To find potential buyers, search the list of exhibitors or attend the main (online) trade fairs in Europe: Ambiente - Frankfurt, Germany (February), Maison et Objet - Paris, France (January and September), and Tendence - Frankfurt, Germany (August)
  • See our tips for finding buyers on the European HDHT market.

What is the most interesting channel for you?

Wholesale importers are the main channel between exporters in developing countries and European retailers. They are interesting if you want to develop a long-term relationship and they usually have good knowledge of the European market. They can provide you with valuable information and guidance on European market preferences.

However, as the market is becoming more and more competitive, large retailers are increasingly importing for themselves instead of through European wholesale importers. The obvious advantages are cutting out the margins of the wholesaler and reducing delivery time to the market. In the lower-end market segments, the self-importing retailers might want to drive a much harder bargain with you. However, in the mid-high segment, which offers you the most opportunities, price and value considerations are balanced out more.

Smaller, independent European retailers continue to purchase mainly from domestic wholesalers/importers. As in other European market sectors (such as food or clothing), independent HDHT retailers struggle to compete with retail chains. They need to differentiate on value-added service, as well as specialised offers and authenticity. These buyers typically prefer orders for small quantities per item, small total order volumes and delivery to their doorstep, with a limited likelihood of repeat orders. You need to calculate if this is cost-effective for you.

The trend of direct sourcing is expected to continue in the future and may create more opportunities for you. The pool of buyers may increase if more retailers become importers, possibly resulting in an improvement of your bargaining position. Importing retailers order for their own shops and can therefore place orders much more quickly than some importers/wholesalers, who may first need to show samples to their retailers before exporters receive their orders.

Tips:

  • Consider targeting retailers directly to improve your bargaining position and increase your chances of closing deals faster.
  • Relate your offer and terms to the targeted retailer (large/small). Ask your existing buyers how they operate if you are unsure. The more informed you are about this aspect, the better you will be able to set prices.
  • For more information on the pros and cons of dealing directly with smaller retailers, read our study on alternative distribution channels.
  • Offer suitable services such as fast delivery and after-sales support to build a relationship based on mutual benefits.
  • When you participate in international trade fairs, especially in Europe, make sure that you have a policy for small, independent retailers coming to your booth. If you choose to sell to them, you must have appropriate terms of trading, such as low minimum order quantities, delivery to the doorstep of the retailer and pre-stocking.

3. What competition do you face on the European vases market?

Europe’s leading supplier of the product groups that include vases is China. A lot of these supplies consist of mass-produced items for the lower-end segments. Instead of competing with these manufacturers, your best opportunities are in the (higher) mid-end market, where you can add value.

(!) Because no specific trade data are available for vases, these statistics cover various related HS-codes for decorative objects and glassware.

China is by far the main supplier of the product groups that include vases to Europe, providing 41% of the imports. Germany follows at a distance with 10%. Together, these countries supply more than half of European imports of these products. The Netherlands (6.9%), France (5.2%), Spain (4.3%) and Poland (3.5%) are next on the list.

Be aware that European countries have different roles on the market. You can make a rough distinction between countries that are mainly importers and countries that are mainly manufacturers. Western European countries are mainly importers and re-exporters. Most Western European importers do not just sell their products in their own country, but they distribute them across the continent.

European production mainly takes place in Eastern European countries, mostly because of their proximity and their relatively low labour costs. This can make them a good alternative for sourcing low to mid-end products. Western and Southern European countries also produce some high-end products from well-known premium brands with a long history.

Mass-produced vases are segmented in the lower ends of the market and produced in the most cost-effective countries. You do not compete with these countries, as your best chances are in the (higher) mid-end market.

Which countries are you competing with?

China dominates the (low-end) market

After steadily increasing between 2016 and 2019, Chinese supplies of the product groups that include vases to Europe fell by -10% to €1.4 billion in 2020. This represents a return to their 2017 levels. With this decline, China has let its market share slip from 43% in 2019 to 41% in 2020.

Its low-cost workforce, availability of raw materials and efficient shipping to Europe compared to other Asian countries make China the most competitive supplier. However, the cost of labour in China has also steadily increased in the last ten years, which has affected China’s price competitiveness. In the coming years, disruptions following China’s trade war with the United States and the outbreak of COVID-19 may also negatively impact the country’s trade performance. This could benefit companies from other developing countries.

Chinese producers mainly supply the lower ends of the market with low-priced vases, benefitting from their strengths in productivity and production management. More than a third of the products in this group that China exports to Europe are made of plastics. To avoid having to compete with Chinese suppliers on costs, you should differentiate and stay away from mass-produced (plastic) vases. Instead, focus on sustainability, (natural) materials and the story behind your product to enter the mid-end market, where your best opportunities are.

Poland is strengthening its position as a regional supplier

Poland has become Europe’s sixth-largest supplier of the product groups that include vases. The country is steadily increasing its exports and its market share. Polish supplies increased from €82 million in 2016 to €120 million in 2020, at an impressive average rate of 10% per year. This includes a 15% increase in 2020, where other leading suppliers faced significant drops. As a result, Poland’s share of the European import market increased from 2.5% in 2016 to 3.5% in 2020.

As an Eastern European country, Poland benefits from its proximity to the Western European market. This allows suppliers to offer short delivery times, while at the same time labour in Poland is relatively affordable compared to Western Europe. Suppliers have a good understanding of the European consumer and have well established and efficient production lines. In addition, products that are ‘Made in Europe’ are increasingly popular.

About a quarter of Polish supplies of the product groups that include vases to Europe consist of plastic items. To compete with Poland, you should focus on your use of (natural) materials, design, craftsmanship and the story behind your product. Make sure you offer a high level of service to build a strong relationship.

Vietnam is another low-cost producer

Between 2016 and 2020, Vietnamese supplies of the product groups that include vases fluctuated. In 2020, they increased by 6.5% to €115 million. This translated to an average annual growth of 4.7% in 2016-2020. With this, the country’s import market share increased from 3.0% to 3.4%. Most of these items are ceramics.

Like suppliers from China, Vietnamese manufacturers are very productive and can produce against low cost. This puts them in a promising position to potentially benefit from the trade war between the United States and China. Vietnamese suppliers often have a keen sense of what is commercial and trendy and prefer to produce in volume. They effectively combine handmade and mechanised production and can cater to a wide section of lower and mid-end markets. As such, they have presented an effective second-sourcing alternative to China for several years now.

India maintains its market share

After peaking in 2019, Indian exports of the product groups that include vases to Europe returned to €89 million in 2020. This is comparable to their 2017/2018 levels. Despite this -11% decline, India realised an average annual growth of 2.6% between 2016 and 2020. This resulted in a fairly stable import market share of 2.6%, consisting mainly of metal items.

With skilled labour and transport at competitive costs, India could be well-positioned to take a bigger share of the European import market. In addition, the Indian government’s recent efforts to reach out to the leading nations in the world have resulted in strong bilateral trade relationships. India has a rich craft culture, with an abundance of producers, easy access to natural materials and increasingly an effective combination of handmade and mechanised craftmanship. This allows the country to target the (higher) mid-end segment, and act as a second-sourcing destination for China.

Czech Republic also benefits from its convenient location

Another competitor from Eastern Europe is the Czech Republic. Most of the country’s supplies of the product groups that include vases are glassware. Czech supplies to Europe increased from €58 million in 2016 to €74 million in 2020, at an average annual rate of 6.4%. This includes a 4.6% increase in 2020. With this, the Czech Republic’s share of the European import market increased from 1.8% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2020. More than a third of these supplies are exported to its neighbouring country Germany.

The Czech Republic’s supplier profile is similar to that of Poland. The country is also conveniently located, and it can offer relatively affordable labour and ‘Made in Europe’ concepts.

Portugal specialises in ceramics

Portuguese supplies of the product groups that include vases to Europe steadily increased between 2016 and 2019, before declining by -7.5% to €53 million in 2020. This translated to an average annual growth rate of 1.9%.

Portugal is specialised in ceramics, with its key strengths being stoneware and earthenware. Its supply is backed by hundreds of years of experience, innovative designs and quality styling. As such, Portuguese ceramic suppliers have become key players in the more rustic, ‘country’ styles for the mid and high-end segments. They can serve as a good example for you, on using specific elements of your original (ceramics) culture such as colour, raw material and craftsmanship.

Which companies are you competing with?

Poterie Serghini – Morocco

Family business Poterie Serghini produces handmade Moroccan ceramics in Safi, a city renowned for its pottery. The company’s ceramic production is based on traditional skills that have been perfected by eight generations of master ceramists. Their items are made from locally sourced natural clay and hand-decorated with lead-free glazes. The unique designs are “inspired by nature, the cultural symbols of Morocco, [and] the personal history of the craftsman”.

Poterie Serghini is committed to the principles of fair trade, striving to improve the quality of life in the artisan community. They offer a wide range of ceramics, from vases and planters to tableware and bathroom accessories, in traditional and modern styles. The items can be personalised and customised in different combinations of colours, sizes and patterns.

Figure 5: Poterie Serghini – The fabulous story of Poterie Serghini

Source: Poterie Serghini @ YouTube

Artex Nam An – Vietnam

Vietnamese supplier Artex Nam An focuses on renewable natural materials that are fast-growing, biodegradable and recyclable. Their vases are made from bamboo, sometimes combined with seagrass. The company was founded in 2013, with the ambition to “make life more eco-friendly globally and better the lives of Vietnamese farmers and artisans”. Their products are ethically sourced from more than 20 local factories, most of which are BSCI-certified.

Besides its catalogue of ready-made (customisable) products, Artex Nam An offers solutions in sourcing, manufacturing, product design and development, and consulting. Their website lists a step-by-step process for each of these services.

Arfai – Portugal

A good example of your Portuguese competition is Arfai, with their mission “to produce high-end contemporary decorative ceramics items of unique added value, inspired by the art and tradition of ceramics manufacture”. The combination of traditional and modern is reflected in shapes and techniques, ranging from hand-painting to reactive glazes and metallic lustres. An R&D team keeps designs aligned with international trends. At the same time, Arfai provides bespoke private label services, from the design concept to production and the final packing and loading.

Arfai’s dedicated webpage about their commitment to sustainability conveys a good understanding of this important topic. It emphasises transparency, and the company’s efforts to be both environmentally and socially responsible. Highlights include the use of locally sourced raw materials, the company’s Waste Water Treatment Plant and Self-Consumption Production Unit for renewable energy, and several successful Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audits.

Figure 6: Arfai – Sustainability

Source: Arfai @ YouTube

Which products are you competing with?

Your competition mainly comes from vases of different materials – such as glass, ceramics or a natural fibre – and vases with different levels of quality and different designs. Consumers are also increasingly interested in socially or environmentally friendly produced vases.

Tips:

  • Compare your products and company to the competition. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country and compare on market segment, price, quality and target countries.
  • To differentiate yourself from your main competitors, focus on design, craftsmanship, quality and the story behind your products.

4. What are the prices for vases on the European market?

Prices for vases vary across market segments, ranging from low-end to high-end. After adding logistics costs, wholesaler and retail margins and Value Added Tax (VAT), European consumer prices amount to about 4-6.5 times your selling price.

Table 1 gives an overview of the indicative prices of vases in the low, middle and high-end market segments. ‘Indicative’ is key here, since prices vary depending on technique, size, material, design, brand and other ways of value addition, including a strong sustainable concept.

Table 1: Indicative consumer prices of vases in Europe

 

Low-end

Mid-end

High-end

Vase: ceramic or glass, 25 cm

Up to €15

€15 to 50

€50 and over

Consumer prices depend on the value perception of your product 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)
  • price

The following percentages give an indication of a price breakdown for vases in the supply chain:

  • shipping, import, handling costs: +25%
  • wholesaler: +100%
  • retail: +100-150%
  • VAT*: +20%

*VAT percentages in Europe range from 18% in Malta to 27% in Sweden. On average, these percentages are around 20%.

For example, in Table 2 the FOB price is set at €10.00. Depending on the market segment your product is designed for, the consumer price ranges from €41.00 in the low-end market to €65.50 in the high-end market.

Table 2: Example of the price breakdown per market segment

 

Low margin

Middle margin

High margin

 

FOB price

€10.00

€10.00

€10.00

Your FOB price

Transport, handling charges, transport insurance, banking services (20/15/15%)

+2.00

€12.00

+1.50

€11.50

+1.50

€11.50

Landed price for the wholesale importer

Wholesalers’ margins (50/75/90%)

+6.00

€18.00

+8.60

€20.10

+10.40

€21.90

Selling price from the wholesale importer to the retailer

Retailers’ margins (90/110/150%)

+16.20

€34.20

+22.20

€42.30

+32.70

€54.60

Selling price excluding VAT from the retailer to the end consumer

Selling price incl. VAT (20%)

+6.80

€41.00

+8.50

€50.80

+10.90

€65.50

Selling price including VAT from the retailer to the end consumer

The FOB price of €10 includes your own margins as a producer. These margins depend on your efficiency and price setting. Generally, margins in the lower segment, which deals with high volumes for low prices, are smaller than those in the middle and higher segments.

Some examples of vase prices across Europe are:

  • recycled glass vase, HEMA (the Netherlands): €15.00
  • hand-glazed stoneware vase, Motel a Miio (Germany/Switzerland): €49.00
  • hand-carved mango wooden vase, Amara (the United Kingdom): €93.00 (15% of profit is donated to Women for Women International)

Tips:

  • Study consumer prices in your target segment to determine your price and adjust your cost accordingly. The quality and price of your vases must match what is expected in your chosen target segment.
  • Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.

This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Globally Cool B.V. in collaboration with GO! GoodOpportunity.

Please review our market information disclaimer.

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