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Importing sunglasses & eyewear from China: A complete guide

By Fredrik Grönkvist

About to import Sunglasses from China? In this guide, you’ll learn what you must know before getting started, including:

– How to select the right Eyewear manufacturer

– Frame Materials, Lens Specifications and general design customization options

– An introduction to Product Safety Standards and Labeling Requirements for Sunglasses in the EU and USA

 

Finding the right Sunglasses Manufacturer in China

sunglasses manufacturer

Most major sunglasses manufacturers in China are based in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai – and the cities of Wenzhou and Linhai in particular.

Wenzhou is the world’s largest manufacturing cluster for Sunglasses. There are hundreds of manufacturers, trading companies and component suppliers in the city.

However, with so many manufacturers to choose from, how can you identify those that are qualified?

When sourcing Sunglasses, this is what you should take a look at:

1. Product Compliance

Is the supplier experienced in manufacturing products according to applicable regulations in your home market?

The truth is that most suppliers are not. As you are required by law to ensure that all imported Eye wear is compliant with all applicable product safety standards and labeling requirements, you need to be sure that the manufacturer has the basic capability to manufacture ‘compliant products’.

The best way to filter suppliers, at an early stage, is by requesting a product compliance document.

For Sunglasses, this may include any of the following:

• Personal Protective Equipment Directive Declaration of Conformity and/or Test Report

• FDA Declaration of Conformity and/or Test Report

Likely, you will quickly find that the majority of manufacturers cannot provide such documents.

2. Quality Management System (QMS) Certificate / Production Line Audits

A QMS Certificate (i.e., ISO 9001:2015) or Production line audit report indicates that the supplier maintains a certain quality standard, in terms of defects.

3. Social Compliance Audit Reports

Social Compliance Audit Reports (i.e., BSCI reports) indicate that the supplier treats its workers fairly well. In turn, this tends to go hand in hand with the above two points.

In addition, you should also look at the following two factors:

Registered Capital: A low amount of registered capital can give away minor traders.

Registered Business Scope: Is the supplier actually a manufacturer? If yes, their business scope specifies this in clear terms.

Note: Many major Sunglasses manufacturers in Zhejiang use separate company entities for manufacturing and trading (i.e., selling and exporting). This is completely legit, as long as some sort of connection can be proven between the two entities.

 

Product Specifications

Sunglasses and eyewear manufacturers expect their buyers to provide them with a set of product specifications.

Sunglasses are highly customizable. The same design (i.e., frame mold) can be made using different types of materials and components.

For obvious reasons, the materials and components are in turn the factors that set the unit price.

This is what you need to know before contact manufacturers:

a. Frame materials

• PP

• Acetate

• Stainless Steel

• Alloy

b. Lens

• Standards: ASTM, EN ISO

• Materials: Plastic, Polycarbonate, Glass, Composite

• UV Protected: Yes / No

• Polarized: Yes / No

• Anti-reflective (AR): Yes / No

• Thickness: X.X mm

• Index: X.X

• Shape

• Color

c. Material colors

• Standard color

• Pantone color

d. Hinges

• Plastic (low quality)

• Stainless steel (high quality)

e. Product Packaging

• Standard Packaging

• Customized Packaging

f. Logo print

• Lens Print

• Frame Print

 

Custom Design & Private Labeling

Most manufacturers in the industry offers a range of ‘standard models’. These are models for which they already own the mold.

Virtually all Eye-wear suppliers offer their buyers to have their own logo (i.e., private label) printed on the lens and the frame.

Most suppliers can also open new frame molds, based on the buyer’s design drawings.

In order to do so, you must first provide the supplier with a CAD (3D) design of the frame.

Notice that the mold is paid entirely by the buyer, and costs anywhere between $400 to $1200, depending on its complexity.

Assuming you intend to import a standard model, you do not need to invest in new tooling.

 

Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) Requirements

Every supplier sets their own MOQ requirements. In the Eye-wear industry, the MOQ requirements are often structured as following:

• 1000 – 2000 pcs per order

• 300 – 500 pcs per model (non-customized design)

• 200 – 500 pcs per color or pattern (non-customized design)

Notice that the MOQ requirement tends to be higher when buying custom designed frames, or ordering frames with a custom pantone color.

There are indeed small online traders, selling Sunglasses with an MOQ as low as 1 unit per design. However, notice that these traders sell products made for the domestic market in China.

Such products are rarely, if ever, compliant with EU or US safety and labeling requirements.

 

Product Safety Standards for Sunglasses in the US and EU

European Union

Sunglasses are subject to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive, which in turn requires that the product is CE marked and that the importer maintains a technical file.

In the EU, the importer is responsible for ensuring compliance. At a minimum, EU based importers must verify that the supplier has previous experience with ensuring PPE compliance.

However, that is only the first step.

The Importer must also create a Technical file, which may include the following documents:

• Declaration of Conformity

• Test Reports

• Design Drawings

• Risk Assessment

• List of applied EN standards

• Copies of packaging, labels and manuals

Importers are also recommended to submit samples to a compliance testing company, to verify that the Sunglasses are compliant. Test reports may be required, without prior notice, by authorities and retailers.

Sunglasses imported to the European Union are also regulated by REACH. Hence, the lens and the frames may not contain excessive amounts of certain substances, such as lead, cadmium and mercury.

Note that additional requirements may apply to protective eye-wear, and sunglasses made for infants and children. Regulations are also subject to change, regardless of product.

United States

Nonprescription sunglasses, sold in the United States, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA sets certain safety and quality requirements, as following:

• Impact Resistance

• Flammability

• Biocompatibility

• Optical Properties

The FDA refers to both ASTM and ISO standards, for each point listed above. For example, these standards require all Sunglass lenses to be shatterproof.

Follow this link to read more about FDA regulations for Sunglasses.

Sunglasses sold, or to buyers located, in California are also subject to CA Prop 65, which restricts more than 800 substances in consumer goods.

 

Labelling Requirements

European Union

Sunglasses sold in the EU must carry the CE mark. The CE mark is normally printed on the inside frame, together with the Category.

Depending on the type and usage of the eyewear, you may also need to specify the following:

• PPE Class (i.e., Class 1)

• Usage symbols

• United States

All products sold in the US must carry a Country of Origin mark. Assuming that your imported Sunglasses are assembled in China, they must carry one of the following:

• Made in China

• Made in PRC

Sunglasses are also subject to 21 CFR Part 801, which outlines product and packaging labeling requirements.

 

Sunglasses Trade Shows in Hong Kong and Mainland China

Wenzhou International Optics Fair

• Location: Wenzhou, Zhejiang

• Venue: Wenzhou International Convention & Exhibition Center

• Website: Click here

Hong Kong Optical Fair

• Location: Hong Kong S.A.R

• Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

• Website: Click here

Canton Fair: Phase 2

• Location: Guangzhou, Guangdong

• Venue: China Import and Export Fair (Pazhou) Complex

• Website: Click here

China (Shanghai) International Optics Fair

• Location: Shanghai

• Venue: Shanghai World Expo Exhibition & Convention Center

• Website: Click here


Fredrik Grönkvist is the co-founder of ScandinAsian Enterprise in Shanghai. Since 2010, he and his team have helped hundreds of companies worldwide, primarily in the EU and US, to develop and manufacture products in China. He is also the main contributor on www.chinaimportal.com, a leading knowledge base for small- to medium-sized enterprises importing from Asia. For further questions, you can contact him on www.chinaimportal.com/contact-us/.

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