Imported Furniture vs NZ Made Furniture: Which is Better?

As a local New Zealand furniture manufacturer, you’d highly likely expect that our answer to this question is: NZ made furniture is better of course! But we’re prepared to admit that imported furniture may suit some people better and want to help you make the right choice. There are a lot of furniture options out there, with a range of different styles, materials and prices. This can become confusing as despite the encouragement to support local businesses, cheaper price tags can be tempting and you may be wondering if NZ made furniture is really a better choice for you than imported furniture. With a lot of factors to consider, we’ve summed up the main ones to inform you of the pros and cons of each so you can make the best decision for yourself.

Cost
Which is cheaper, NZ made furniture or imported furniture? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Do you want to know which is cheaper initially or which will cost you the least over your lifetime? Understandably, cost is a big factor for a lot of buyers. With millions of ways to spend your money, it makes sense that you’d want to carefully consider the price of the furniture you buy, because it probably isn’t the only thing in your budget. But furniture is a necessity, so if you’re looking at the cost of different pieces of furniture, it is likely that you’ll find imported products that are cheaper than products made here in New Zealand. And if initial cost is your main concern, then go for it, imported is the winner here. But if you want the lowest cost over your lifetime then you’ll want to consider NZ made furniture. Let me explain why. Below are two lots of dining chairs sold in New Zealand. The Bruno dining chairs and the Bari dining chairs.

At a glance these dining chairs have many similarities: they both have wooden frames, fabric backs and bases, and are almost exactly the same size. The cost however may surprise you. The Bruno dining chairs are NZ made from solid ash timber and are available in a range of stain colours and fabrics, their price is $799 each. The Bari dining chairs are imported in one colour and one fabric and have an individual cost of $349. As far as cost goes, the Bari is an obvious choice, right? But not so fast. The warranty on a Bruno dining chair is 25 years, the warranty on a Bari dining chair is 2 years. So, if you have to replace a Bruno chair with something of a similar price after 25 years then it’s going to cost you a total of $1589 over 50 years. If a Bari chair has to be replaced every 2 years, the total cost over 50 years is $8725. So the question is why? Why does imported furniture initially cost less than NZ made furniture? Why does NZ made furniture have longer warranties than imported furniture? We cover this further in the categories below but the main reason for imported furniture’s lower cost is the labour. Some overseas countries can get very cheap labour and when mass-producing, the process is less labour-intensive, cutting costs for the manufacturer and therefore for you, the buyer.

Quality
When it comes to quality, locally-made furniture should win every time. Pieces of furniture made here in New Zealand are typically carefully crafted with high quality materials and skilled labour. Locally-grown timbers such as radiata pine are sustainably sourced from local plantations and crafted into beautiful solid wood pieces. With imported furniture comes a chance of receiving mass-produced pieces that are made in bulk with little care and cheap materials. That’s not to say that all imported furniture is of low quality but when a price looks too good to be true, it probably is. There has to be some cut back on costs somewhere, and more often than not, this is a compromise on quality- bulk production, unskilled labour and the use of engineered timber such as MDF or particleboard with a timber veneer, which may still look attractive but doesn’t have the strength and durability of solid wood furniture.

Life Span
Most of us don’t want to be buying new furniture every few years. It’s costly for us and bad for the environment. Imported furniture of low quality is more susceptible to damage and it’ll be no time before you need to be buying a replacement. NZ made furniture is made to last and can end up saving you a lot more money in the long run. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the warranties on some of the bedroom furniture ranges sold by retailer Harvey Norman. NZ made ranges Tillsdale, McKenzie and Fenton made by Coastwood Furniture carry a 25-year warranty and Reefton and Riverwood made by Sorenmobler carry 10-year warranties. Imported ranges such as Calypso, Coolmore and Rye have warranties of 2-3 years, proving how NZ made furniture is built to last. In addition to this, if there ever is a problem with your NZ made furniture, it can be sent back to the original manufacturer to be repaired which is not an option with imported furniture.  

Lead times and delivery
As consumers, when we decide we want something, we usually want it immediately and furniture is no exception. NZ made furniture is commonly made to order meaning there can be a lead time of several weeks. If you need something straight away, imported furniture is convenient as it is often stocked in store, ready to go. That being said, although it can take some time for furniture to be manufactured, once it is done, delivery of NZ made furniture is fast and simple. This can be the same for imported furniture, but if the piece you want is not in stock in New Zealand, you may have to wait for it to come from the other side of the world, going through customs and other international delays. With supply chain issues caused by the global pandemic at the current time, this could lead to a much longer wait time.  

Customisation
The advantage of having furniture made to order is that if the standard size, colour, fabric or handles don’t suit what you need or want, NZ made furniture can be customised just for you, to meet your individual needs and offer you a unique piece that fits seamlessly into your home. With imported furniture, this is not available as you will only be able to purchase exactly what the supplier has available in their store, unless you order a product not in stock and wait a long time for overseas manufacturers to custom make it and ship it to New Zealand.

Variety
While there is a lot of variety with furniture designs within New Zealand, sometime you just can’t find exactly what you want. Importers source furniture from all over the world which gives them access to a greater supply of furniture materials, styles and crafting methods. If you’re wanting furniture made from a different material that’s not available in NZ or a unique design or look that you can only find overseas, then imported furniture is possibly going to be more satisfactory.

Economic impact
A key thing to remember when buying furniture is that NZ made supports local businesses and employment, therefore it has a more positive economic impact on our country than buying imported goods. Wouldn’t you rather your money stayed in New Zealand to help our economy rather than heading overseas?

Ethical considerations
Another question you might want to ask yourself is, is the furniture I want to buy ethically made? A contributor to low prices could be cheap foreign labour; how would you feel to know your furniture had been made by slave labour in unsafe conditions? Or, what if your furniture is made from illegal materials sourced from endangered rainforests and contributing to deforestation? If it’s imported, you may not know. In New Zealand you can be assured of safe and legal production as NZ made furniture has to adhere to strict safety standards and we have many laws and regulations preventing slavery and forced labour.

The Answer?

There is no definite right answer as to which type of furniture is better. It depends entirely on your individual needs and wants. If your primary consideration is immediate cost, you want it now and you are not concerned about the quality, or you want an exact style or timber that is not produced in NZ then you’ll probably want to choose imported furniture. However, if you want high-quality, ethically-produced furniture that can be customised to suit you while supporting your home country, then NZ made is the way to go.

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