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Exporting vases to Europe

Takes about 20 minutes to read

The European market for vases made a strong recovery from a dip in 2013, and has developing countries as its main suppliers. You can supply vases to both consumer and project markets. In the project market, especially larger and more conspicuous vases – statement pieces – offer opportunities. Trends for the garden have opened up outdoors for the vase as well. If you export ceramics or glass, or tableware or kitchenware, you can easily add vases to your collections. In the hand-made segment, recycling or use of renewable materials offers opportunities.


1 . Product description

A vase is an open container, often used to hold cut flowers. Vases are classified as ‘decorative accessories’. As such, they are often grouped with items such as statuettes and figurines, wall decoration or candles. This study uses the following codes to indicate trade in vases:

Table 1: Product codes

Harmonised System (HS)

Prodcom

Description

7013.3110

2313.1310

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered by hand (excluding articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013.4110

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered by hand (excluding articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013.4991

Glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered by hand (excluding toughened glass and glass having a linear coefficient of expansion <= 5 x 10 -6 per kelvin within a temperature range of 0 to 300°C, glassware of glass ceramics or lead crystal, articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013.9110

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes, gathered by hand (excluding glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, drinking glasses, articles of heading 7018, mirrors, leaded lights and the like, lighting fittings and parts thereof, atomisers for perfume and the like)

7013.3190

2313.1330

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered mechanically (excluding articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013.4190

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered mechanically (excluding articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

7013.9190

Glassware of lead crystal, of a kind used for toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes, gathered mechanically (excluding glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, articles of heading 7018, mirrors, leaded lights and the like, lighting fittings and parts thereof, atomizers for perfume and the like)

7013.4999

2313.1350

Glassware of a kind used for table or kitchen purposes, gathered mechanically (excluding toughened glass and glass having a linear coefficient of expansion <= 5 x 10 -6 per kelvin within a temperature range of 0 to 300°C, glassware of glass ceramics or lead crystal, articles of heading 7018, drinking glasses, glass preserving jars ‘sterilising jars’, vacuum flasks and other vacuum vessels)

6913.1000

2341.1330

Statuettes and other ornamental ceramic articles of porcelain or china not elsewhere specified

6913.9010

2341.1350

Other statuettes and other ornamental ceramic articles

6914.1000

2349.1230

Ceramic articles of porcelain or china, not elsewhere specified

6914.9000

2349.1250

Ceramic articles not elsewhere specified (excluding of porcelain or china)

3926.4000

2229.2620

Statuettes and other ornamental articles, of plastics

8306.2100

2599.2400

Statuettes and other ornaments, of base metal, plated with precious metal (excluding works of art, collector’s pieces and antiques)

8306.2910

Statuettes and other ornaments, of copper not plated with precious metals (excluding works of art, collector’s pieces and antiques)

4420.1011

1629.1300

Statuettes and other ornaments, of okoumé, obeche, sapelli, sipo, acajou, d’afrique, makoré, iroko, tiama, tiama, mansonia, ilomba, dibétou, limba, azobé, dark red meranti, light red meranti, meranti bakau, white lauan, white meranti, white seraya, yellow meranti, alan,  keruing, ramin, kapur, teak, jongkong, merbau, jelutong, kempas, virola, mahogany ‘swietenia spp.’, imbuia, balsa, palissandre de rio, palissandre de para and palissandre de rose (excluding wood marquetry and inlaid wood)

4420.1019

Statuettes and other ornaments, of wood (excluding okoumé, obeche, sapelli, sipo, acajou, d’afrique, makoré, iroko, tiama, tiama, mansonia, ilomba, dibétou, limba, azobé, dark red meranti, light red meranti, meranti bakau, white lauan, white meranti, white seraya, yellow meranti, alan,  keruing, ramin, kapur, teak, jongkong, merbau, jelutong, kempas, virola, mahogany ‘swietenia spp.’, imbuia, balsa, palissandre de rio, palissandre de para and palissandre de rose; wood marquetry and inlaid wood)

Quality

Functionality

Vases that display cut flowers must be able to hold water. For glazed ceramics and glass, this is a given. Other materials like wood or paper may need an inner coating or glass container to become water-resistant. Vases for artificial flowers or purely decorative purposes do not have to be water-resistant. Shapes can vary according to consumer taste. They also depend on whether vases are designed to hold bunches or single flowers. In general, garden vases need to be light and durable.      

Material

Vases can be made from various materials, such as

  • ceramics
  • glass
  • metal
  • paper
  • synthetics
  • rubber
  • wood
  • recycled material
  • composites.

Glass and ceramic vases are the most common. However, the need for design flexibility and varying consumer preferences stimulate the use of different materials. Each material creates a different look, feel and customer appeal.  

Aesthetic quality

The vase has become a valued home accessory in its own right. It needs to appeal to different market segments, with different requirements in terms of shape and decoration. Generally, levels of innovation rise as the segments move up. Over the years, vases have evolved from conventional cylinder or belly shapes to more expressive and innovative designs.

Labelling

  • Information on the outer packaging of vases should correspond to the packing list sent to the importer.
  • External packaging labels for vases should include
    • producer
    • consignee
    • material used
    • quantity
    • size
    • volume
    • caution signs.
  • 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. For instance, logos or 'Made in …' information. This is part of the order specifications.
  • Use English for labelling, unless your buyer indicates otherwise.

Packaging

Importer specification

You should pack vases according to the importer’s instructions. They have their own specific requirements for:

  • the use of packaging materials
  • filling cartons
  • palletisation
  • stowing containers.

Always ask for the importer’s order specifications. These are part of the purchase order.

Damage prevention

Properly packaging vases minimises the risk of damage caused by transport. 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.

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. The buyer must specify them.

Boxes are usually palletised for air or sea transport. Exporters must make maximum use of pallet space.

Cost reduction

Packaging has to provide maximum protection. However, you also have to avoid using excess materials or shipping ‘air’. Waste removal is a cost to 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 the buyer for alternatives.

Consumer packaging

Consumer packaging is not common for vases. They are usually sold as they come and may be gift-wrapped by the retailer.

2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for exporters of vases?

European imports of vases have recovered strongly from a dip in 2013. Developing countries are Europe’s main vase suppliers. Europe’s main importers of vases are:

  • Germany
  • the Netherlands
  • the United Kingdom
  • Italy.

Especially the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are interesting focus countries, with a strong market for developing countries.

Trade statistics

(!) These data cover glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

Where is consumer demand?

  • Europe’s demand for vases is considerably higher than its production. This drives the need for imports, making Europe an interesting market.
  • Between 2010 and 2014, European consumption decreased, with sales amounting to €2.2 billion in 2014.
  • European consumption of vases is highest in Germany at €467 million. France follows at €352 million and Italy at €308 million.

What is the role of European production in supplying European demand?

  • Between 2010 and 2014, European production of vases declined from €1.8 billion to €1.7 million. This resulted in a negative average annual growth rate of -−1.5%.
  • France, Germany and Italy are responsible for 19%, 18% and 17% of European vase production respectively.

Which countries are most interesting in terms of imports from developing countries?

(!) The following data only gives an indication of trade in vases. No specific trade data are available. The figures below cover the articles specified in Table 1: glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

Source: Trademap

* This figure covers glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

Source: Trademap

* This figure covers glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

Source: Trademap

* This figure covers glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

  • In 2014 and 2015, European imports of vases recovered strongly from a dip in 2013. They reached €267 million in 2015. This resulted in a negative average annual growth rate of −0.9% between 2011 and 2015.
  • In the coming years, European imports are expected to keep growing moderately.
  • Developing countries are Europe’s main source of vases. They supply 66% of European imports, amounting to €175 million in 2015. This share is predicted to increase slightly in the coming years.
  • Germany is Europe’s leading importer of vases, at €55 million in 2015. The Netherlands (€39 million), the United Kingdom (€32 million) and Italy (€30 million) follow.
  • These main importing countries are also leading when it comes to imports from developing countries. In the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, these imports grew strongly between 2011 and 2015. In Germany and Italy however, they decreased in this period.
  • China dominates European vase imports, with 58% in 2015. Other leading suppliers among developing countries are Vietnam and Thailand.

Tips

  • Focus on Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy. Their strong imports from developing countries make the Netherlands and the United Kingdom especially interesting markets.
  • Compare your products and company to the strong competition from China, as well as India and Vietnam. You can use ITC Trademap to find exporters per country. You can compare on:
    • market segment
    • price
    • quality
    • target countries.

What role does export play in supplying European demand?

Source: Trademap

* This figure covers glassware, statuettes and ornaments of ceramics, base metal and wood.

  • European exports of vases consist mainly of trade within Europe.
  • Germany (€32 million) and Portugal (€27 million) are Europe’s leading vase exporters.

Macro-economic indicators

Real private consumption expenditure

Source: Eurostat

  • 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 2015 and 2017, European private consumption expenditure is expected to increase. This means that consumption of luxury and decorative products is likely to rise. Especially in emerging markets, consumers will have more money available to spend on these products. Consumers in mature markets already spend a fair amount of money on luxury items, so growth in their consumption will be moderate.

3 . Which trends offer opportunities on the European market for vases?

Becoming an object of desire

A major development in this product group is the ‘emancipation’ of the vase. The vase has developed from a functional, almost anonymous, flower container, into an object of desire. Design becomes increasingly important in this category as it rises above basic everyday use. Consumers take pride in choosing the right vase for their interior. They increasingly use their home purchases to express their identity (taste, style). Designers see the vase as an opportunity to display their innovative skills.

Tips

  • Find ways to add value, such as
    • complex techniques (like special glazing effects)
    • a more expressive use of materials (like concrete) and decoration (like hand-painting)
    • combinations of materials
    • innovative shapes.
  • In increasing your design value, you will find prices become less sensitive.
  • Offer sufficient variety to appeal to a wide range of consumer tastes, or develop a strong ‘signature’ to attract specific consumers. Study the big brands in vases to understand more about signature, creating coherent collections and positioning in the market. You can do this online and by visiting trade fairs and retail stores and shops.
  • Consider ‘vases that don’t work’. To raise design levels, designers and brands are experimenting with the ‘concept of the vase’. In this process, some vases have lost their basic functionality as water containers for flowers. Vases of wood or paper, for instance, can only hold artificial flowers unless they have an inner coating or glass container. Nevertheless, they are great eye-catchers in the home.

Nature inside the home

Consumers want to feel closer to nature and feel healthier and relaxed, even in compact urban homes. Besides plants, European consumers use cut flowers and artificial flowers to brighten up their homes. In line with this trend, vases are increasingly becoming a staple accessory in European interiors. 

Tips

  • If you produce ceramics or glass, or tableware or kitchenware, you can relatively easily add vases to your collection.
  • Study trends in cut and artificial flower use and decoration in interiors. This teaches you about colours, flower arrangement (big bunches or single flowers) and flowers for specific occasions. Developments in the flower market can give you valuable ideas for vase design.

Growing project and lifestyle markets

Vases have impact in both the consumer and project markets. The hospitality sector (hotels, resorts, catering), retail and event decoration and private homes have demand for vases. Especially larger, more eye-catching statement pieces. This is making the potential market for vases quite wide and interesting. As the vase has become an important decorative object, general lifestyle distributors and brands now also offer vases. They mainly supply to mid-high market segments.    

Tip

  • In sourcing new importers, consider the project and ‘lifestyle’ market segments. Look for opportunities to market to these segments by choosing relevant trade fairs. Remember that both types of market require different marketing mixes regarding:
    • product characteristics
    • pricing
    • distribution and order cycles
    • communication strategies.

Outdoor vases

The garden has become an extension of the interior. Consumers increasingly decorate their outdoor spaces such as their garden, veranda or balcony, often matching their indoor style. This has opened up the outdoors for the vase as well. Of course outdoor vases have to meet specific requirements, such as weatherproof design.

Tips

  • If you offer outdoor vases, consider adding planters, bird feeders or other garden features to your outdoor range. Ideally use your core materials and techniques.
  • Study gardening and garden decoration trends, to keep up to date on developments relevant to vases.
  • For more information, see our special study about the garden.

Green

Consumers and the industry are increasingly open to the added value of sustainable design. In the mainstream market of industrially produced glass and ceramic vases, manufacturers are increasingly certified (especially BSCI). In the hand-made segment, manufacturers often experiment with recycling or the use of renewable materials.

Tips

For more information, see our study about trends in Home Decoration & Home Textiles.

4 . With which requirements should vases comply to be allowed on the European market?

See our study about buyer requirements for home decoration & home textiles for the requirements applying to vases.

What legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply with?

General product safety

The European Union’s General Product Safety Directive applies to all consumer products, including vases. It states that all products marketed in Europe must be safe to use.

Tips

  • Read more about the General Product Safety Directive at the EU Export Helpdesk.
  • 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 its borders, or withdrawn from the market. Check the database for vases and other objects of your specific material for an idea of what issues may arise.

European legislation

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
  • pallets
  • box pallets
  • dunnage.

Restricted chemicals: REACH

The REACH regulation lists restricted chemicals in products that are marketed in Europe. For instance, REACH restricts the use of:

  • lead in the paints and glazing of ceramics
  • cadmium compounds in various applications
  • arsenic and creosotes as wood preservatives.

Tips

Timber Regulation

According to the European Union’s Timber Regulation, you must prove any timber used was harvested legally. This also applies to wooden vases. Products with a FLEGT or CITES license comply with the Timber Regulation.

Tips

Which additional requirements do buyers often have?

Sustainability

Social and environmental sustainability will make your products stand out on the European market. This could concern sustainable raw materials and production processes. European buyers increasingly require 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 of 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.

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

Tips

  • 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. For instance perform a self-assessment like the BSCI Self-Assessment for Producers, or follow 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?

Fair trade

The concept of fair trade supports fair pricing and improved social conditions for producers and their communities. Especially when the production of your vases is labour-intensive, fair-trade certification can give you a competitive advantage.

Common fair trade certifications are from:

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.
  • Check the ITC Standards map database for more information on voluntary standards and their requirements, including fair production.

FSC certification

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

Tip

Ceramic vases: 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.

5 . What competition will you be facing on the European vase market?

The competition for vases does not differ significantly from the sector in general. See our study about competition for home decoration & home textiles for a general overview. Also refer to our top 10 tips for doing business with European buyers.

6 . Which channels can you use to put vases on the European market?

The market channels and segments for vases do not differ significantly from the sector in general. See our study about market channels and segments for home decoration & home textiles for a general overview.

Market channels

E-commerce

E-commerce in home decoration is increasing. It can help you reach a broader range of customers. Retailers often combine online and offline channels. Consumers research and purchase products online. They shop around and compare prices on home decoration items. Small (gift) items are especially suitable for this.

To supply e-commerce, you have to be able to work with:

  • individual packing
  • individual labelling
  • limited minimum orders.

Tips

Trade associations and fairs

The following trade associations and fairs are useful sources for finding trading partners in Europe.

Market segments

The consumer market for vases consists of low, mid and high-end markets.

Low-end market

This segment contains every-day basics. These vases are:

  • functional
  • affordable
  • often sold in sets
  • easily available, for instance in hypermarkets, general interior stores and online.

Mid-end market

These products are trendy. Important characteristics are:

  • design focused on texture or decoration (sometimes hand-painted)
  • familiar shapes
  • friendly prices
  • sold at general interior stores and mid-segment department stores.

In the mid-high market, design and craftsmanship are more prominent and innovative.  

High-end/premium market

This is a very small segment, as the commercial market for vases usually ends at mid-high. The small luxury top-segment is characterised by:

  • premium materials such as crystal or aluminium
  • intricate techniques, often hand-made
  • innovative shapes
  • distribution by heritage brands, top-end designers or high-end department stores.

This segment includes timeless ‘modern classics’. For instance the Aalto or Savoy Vase by Iittala or the Sottsass Vase by Bitossi Ceramiche.

7 . What are the end-market prices for vases?

Table 2 gives an overview of the prices of vases in the low, middle and high market segments.

Table 2: Indicative consumer prices of vases

 

Low-end

Mid-end

High-end

Vase: ceramic or glass, 25 cm

Up to €20

€20–50

€50 and over

Consumer prices depend on the value perception of your product in a particular segment. Your marketing mix influences this through:

  • product benefits
  • promotion (brand or not, communication of product benefits)
  • points of sale (reseller positioning)
  • price.

Tips

  • The value perception of your product in the chosen segment determines its price. Your product quality and price must match what is expected in your chosen target segment. To determine your price, study consumer prices in your target segment. Adjust your prices accordingly.
  • Understand your segment. Offer a correct marketing mix to meet consumer expectations. Adapt your business model to your position in the market.

The following figure gives an indication of a price breakdown for vases in the supply chain.

Figure 6: Indicative price breakdown for vases, mark-ups in %

indicative_price_breakdown_for_vases_mark-ups_in_.png

Source: ProFound, 2014

Please review our market information disclaimer.