Thailand is a veritable wonderland when it comes to wholesale products for reselling back home. The country boasts a mind-bogglingly broad range of merchandise, the quality generally is rather good, and the prices very favorable. The latter is particularly true when you’re buying in bulk and thus have considerable negotiating power while hammering out terms and conditions with the respective manufacturers.
Because of that incredible range of goods, it is not an easy task to devise a “top 10” list of Thai products, and this article does not claim to be absolutely authoritative with regards to the following ten product suggestions. Rather, our line-up is intended to serve as a “kick-starter” for you to see what Thailand’s artisans, craftsmen and factories have to offer. During your own sourcing sojourn in the country, you will without doubt stumble across products that are not mentioned as part of our list, but which nevertheless attract your interest. The great thing about embarking on a product sourcing trip to Thailand is of course that you can comfortably combine a few days of leisure with your main task of finding merchandise for your business back home.
Having said that, let’s take a peek at all those goodies waiting for you in the “Land of Smiles”.
Thai Silk Fabrics – (Image source : bangkok.com)
- Silk fabrics, ready-made silk clothes and home décor items
Thailand is world-famous for its silk industry, and rightfully so. Thai silk has in the past few decades experienced a remarkable renaissance after having almost died out by the late 1960s. Thai silk fabrics have a reputation for not only being the pinnacle of luxury, but the country boasts some types that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, like the incredibly beautiful “ikat” silk from the country’s northeastern region, which is produced using a unique tie-dye technique. While many buyers opt for reams of raw or dyed silk fabrics, you can of course also purchase ready-made clothing or home décor items like pillow cases and even bedding – or present your own designs to a manufacturer.
For silk fabrics and other silk products, try the following companies:
LP Thai Silk Co. Ltd.
286 Silom Village Trade Center, Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500.
Tel: (662)-234-4448, 233-9447 ext. 246
Direct Line: (662)-6356286, 2357406
Email : Info@lpthaisilk.com
Charoon Thai Silk Ltd. Part.
566/120 Sathupradit Road, Yannawa, Bangkok 10120
Tel: (662) 682-1975, (662) 294-1144
Fax: (662) 682-0362, (662) 294-5827
A good address particularly for high-quality silk bedding is:
Anita Export Ltd. Part.
298/2 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500
Tel: (662) 234-2481, 234-7637, 237-8485-6
Fax: (662) 237-1375, (662)237-8452
TIP: Like in any other industry, there unfortunately also exist some “black sheep” among Thai silk companies who are trying to sell you artificial silk products under the pretense it would be the “real thing”. It can be quite a rude awakening if you find out that those 10 reams of “genuine Thai silk” are in fact made of 100% polyester. But there are some simple tests that you can carry out on fabric samples to make sure that they’re pure silk. Find out more onhttp://www.bangkok-thailand.com/faq-how-to-recognize-true-and-fake-silk.htm or watchhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jLCgYOJrLI
Thai Artist on wood carving – (source : luxury-thailand-travel.com)
- Wood Carvings
Wood carvings in all shapes and sizes are a specialty of northern Thailand, where you can find entire village communities engaging in nothing else but transforming logs into beautiful décor items. Just a few kilometers from the northern city of Chiang Mai lies the village of San Patong, and is there where you’ll find entire rows of wood workshops. In Hangdong district, just about an hour south of Chiang Mai, the villages of Ban Tawai and Ban Wan likewise are dedicated to the art of wood carving. Bring your own designs or buy ready-made items in bulk. The artisans produce anything from wonderfully detailed statues of mythical deities, Thai temple dancers and richly decorated wall panels to absolutely tacky stuff like Indian Chief heads and buffalo horns. But just wander around San Patong or Hangdong and it’s almost certain that you’ll see one or another item that catches your fancy.
One highly recommended workshop is:
Ban Petmanee Ltd. Part.
173 Moo 5 Banwan, Hangdong, Chiang Mai 50230
Tel: (6653) 441-707 (office); (6653) 433-716 (workshop)
Fax: (6653) 441-386
TIP: Be aware that Thailand imposes a strict law prohibiting the export of any Buddha statues and images – regardless whether they’re antiques or modern products – without a proper export permit from the Fine Arts Department. It also doesn’t matter whether a statue is made of wood or cast in bronze or brass, whether it’s a wall panel or a painting depicting the Buddha. If you’re intend of purchasing such items, ask the seller if they can assist with obtaining such a permit. Many companies will be able to oblige, but if they can’t, look for another product.
Pratunam wholesale market – (source : bussababangkok.com)
Thailand is home to an enormous textile manufacturing industry. Whether it’s simple t-shirts or polo shirts, denim jeans or dress shirts and blouses, the quality if often surprisingly good for the price quoted, particularly when you’re looking for cotton textiles. Many manufacturers work for international brands, but also have established their own, local brands, which often are exactly the same items, just with a different label. It would be futile to list any recommended manufacturers here, because there’re simply too many. But if you are in Bangkok you should wander the maze of tiny alleys that make up Pratunam Clothing Market, where you’ll find outlets of large factories next to small shops of textile artists and can mingle with large-scale buyers from all over the world. Take a taxi to Indra Hotel. The market just across the street from the hotel entrance. You also can try Bangkok’s Bo Bae Market, which likewise specializes in textiles wholesales. If you bring your own designs, most shops will gladly transform them for you into any item you want; alternatively, look out for t-shirts with quirky slogans or any other read-made items.
TIP: If you’re buying a large quantity, most shops will be able to arrange a reliable freight service for you, including the necessary paper work.
Stingray leather wallet – (source :aly.inventiveculture.com)
To say it right away, Thailand is not particularly famous for the quality of its cow leather products. If it’s simple cow leather belts or wallets you’re after, you find better quality elsewhere. However, more luxurious merchandise made from crocodile, ostrich and even stingray leather is a wholly different story. There are numerous crocodile, ostrich and stingray farms around the country, where those animals are bred commercially. Leather made from their skins is noted for both their subtleness and interesting surface texture and is transformed into anything from belts to wallets, ladies handbags and more.
Here are a few suggestions for manufacturers specializing in this sort of exotic leather products:
Thai Oriental Leather Co. Ltd., Website: www.thaiorientalleather.com
Thai Ocean Leather Co. Ltd., Website: www.thaioceanleather.com
Stingray Thailand Co. Ltd., Website: www.stingraythailand.com
Thai Top Leather Co. Ltd., Website: www.thaitopleather.com
TIP: When you’re browsing the product catalogues in the above websites, don’t be put off by the often very high US$ process quoted there. These prices are for single items shipped to European or North American customers and reflect the generally higher price levels in those regions. If you’re buying in bulk, you can invariably negotiate a much better deal.
Traditional Thai Parasols – (source : loca4motion.com)
- Paper or Silk Umbrellas, Parasols and Fans
The art of manufacturing umbrellas and fans from waxed paper or painted silk fabrics is again a specialty of northern Thailand and is in fact centuries old. The villages of San Kamphaeng and Bor Sang just outside the northern capital of Chiang Mai are almost entirely dedicated to this craft. The basic frames of umbrellas and fans in all sizes are usually made from bamboo, skillfully tied together and fastened with strong cotton or even silk threads. Those frames are then covered either with sheets of waxed paper or silk. More often colorful traditional designs are painted on, but depending on your preferences it is of course also possible to just purchase plain-colored umbrellas and fans. Smaller umbrellas serve as sun shades, while larger parasols are perfect for garden patios. Fans can either be used for their main purpose of providing a cooling breeze on hot summer days or – opened up and spread out – can serve as wall decorations.
While it is best to explore the many workshops in and around San Kamphaeng or Bor Saeng directly, here are a few recommendations of reputable manufacturers:
Chiang Mai Umbrellas Co. Ltd., Website: www.chiangmaiumbrellas.com
Jedi Creations Co. Ltd., Website: www.jedicreations.com (specializes in large garden umbrellas and patio parasols)
TIP: Open and close an umbrella several times to check whether the frame hinges are tight and secure. It should open easily and without any noticeable resistance and creaking noises. When closing, check whether it comfortably folds back in its original position without deforming and also see if the paper or silk covering folds smoothly.
Thai Bamboo Furniture – (sources : unshinethailand.com)
Granted, Malaysia does have its own rattan and bamboo furniture industry. However, what makes its Thai counterpart interesting are the often quite unique designs – apart from the very low prices for larger orders, of course. Water hyacinths, an ubiquitous weed choking rivers and ponds everywhere in Thailand in recent years also have been discovered as the raw material for aesthetically rather tasteful furniture items like chairs and floor mats and rugs. When dried, the hyacinths’ woody stalks become very tough and sturdy, yet incredibly light in terms of weight.
A few recommended manufacturers of rattan, bamboo and water hyacinth items include:
Chiang Mai Life Construction Co. Ltd., Website: www.chiangmailifeconstruction.com
Thai Furniture Décor Co. Ltd., Website: www.thaifurnituredecor.com
Art Deco Chiang Mai Co. Ltd., Website: www.artdecochiangmai.com
TIP: Furniture tends to be bulky and you’ll definitely need a shipping company. Trust in the recommendation from your supplier. They have been in the business for many years and know which freight forwarder can handle their products reliably.
Jessica Ennis sport Adidas wear – (source:globalpost.com)
- Sports Shoes
Thailand is an important manufacturing base for many of the world’s most iconic brands of sports shoes, like Nike, Adidas, Puma and several others. What is less well known is the fact that Thai manufacturers have established an enormous range of local brands, practically all of which are very rarely seen outside the country. Quality-wise they generally are on par with their more famous international cousins, yet are very low priced, especially if you’re buying in quantity. Thais also have a penchant for playful design, thus you can find quite unusual types of sneakers among local brands, which might sell especially well among teenagers.
The choice of Thai sports shoes manufacturers is endless, so here are just a couple of randomly selected suggestions:
Homey (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
99/7, Moo1 Tephapuk Road, Bangkok 10540
Tel: (662) 315-1631
Fax: (662) 315-1383
IMA Footwear Co. Ltd.
382-386 Vanich 1 Road, Balanna Plaza, Bangkok 10100
Tel: (662) 622-8752
Fax: (662) 622-8751
TIP: Visit Bangkok’s Pratunam Clothing Market (see above) or – on a Saturday or Sunday – the shoe section of incredibly vast Chatuchak Weekend Market. You’ll stumble across countless stalls (sometimes not larger than a hole in the wall) of small shoe manufacturers who neither maintain an Internet presence nor currently sell their often very unique products overseas. Chances are that you will find an unusual type of sneaker that you may like.
Silverware vendor in Chiang Rai’s night market, Thailand
- Silver Ware, Silver Jewelry, Niello Ware
Thailand has a centuries-old silver smithing tradition with a particular emphasis on high-quality, solid sterling silver (i.e. minimum 92.5% pure silver content). Apart from silver ware like bowls, pitchers, cutlery or serving trays the country’s silver smiths excel at fabricating excellent jewelry items, such as bracelets, rings, ear rings, bangles and much, much more. Besides some larger manufacturers, there is an entire home industry made up of tiny, family-run companies that often shell out highly individual and very creative designs. A very specialized industry native to southern Thailand is the production of so-called niello ware, an age-old technique during which brass vessels or jewelry items are labor-intensively inlaid with sterling silver in a huge variety of motifs. You can even bring your own designs and most shops will be all too happy to produce a prototype for you within a few days. If it comes out as you imagined, you can order in bulk.
Some of the better-known, large manufacturers of sterling silver items are:
www.illusionjewels.com (specializes in niello jewelry)
If you’re looking for jewelry containing real gem stones (sapphires, rubies, emeralds, etc.), try:www.selenejewelry.com
This company is only one of many located in the eastern city of Chantaburi, a regional center of the gemstone trade attracting buyers from all over the world.
TIP: While the vast majority of silver smiths are honest and hard-working people, it is nevertheless always best to insist that the manufacturer supply a certificate of authenticity with all their sterling silver items. In terms of gemstones, resort to a reputable manufacturer like the above mentioned Selene Jewelry Co., or if you’re sourcing directly in Chantaburi, make sure you’re accompanied by a gemstone expert who is able to distinguish genuine stones from fake ones and also has expertise in determining the countless quality grades.
Ceramic pottery for sale at Chatuchak Weekend Market – (source: gregvaughn.photoshelter.com)
Ceramic items of all shapes and sizes are yet another time-honored specialty of Thailand. In the middle ages, celadon ceramics were one of the main and highly-priced trading goods of ancient Siam and were shipped as far away as China. The small northeastern village of Dan Kwiang until today has a reputation for the unique appearance of its ceramics, the result of a special type of clay only found in the vicinity. It has a high content of iron oxide, which after firing gives the ceramics a unique reddish sheen. But northern Thailand also supports a large ceramics manufacturing industry, with goods ranging from large planting pots to crockery, vases and other decorative items being shipped around the world. Just as celadon, benjarong pottery likewise is a specialty indigenous to Thailand.
Some highly recommended manufacturers in northern Thailand are:
www.thaivase.com (particularly benjarong pottery)
For unusual Dan Kwian ceramics, try:
TIP: If you’re interested in Dan Kwian ceramics, visit this district about 15 km southeast of the northeastern provincial capital of Nakorn Ratchasima (Korat) and spend a few days checking out different small factories and workshops. Thailand’s Northeast still remains largely undiscovered by international mass tourism and thus retains a traditional charm that you can no longer encounter in the over-run and increasingly westernized beach resorts.
- Food Stuffs
Malaysians are passionate cooks and veritable epicureans. While many cooking ingredients that are popular in Thailand also find their way into Malaysian cuisine (and thus are readily available in the country), there are quite a few which are hard to find in Malaysia. Think of high-quality durian (fresh or dried), dried fish species unique to Thailand, fish sauce made from tiny rice paddy fish or freshwater crabs, or even something really, really “exotic” like canned red ant eggs or fried crickets. Thailand provides it all, although you will have to do a bit of homework sourcing a suitable supplier.
TIP: Importing food stuffs into Malaysia can be tricky business and you will need a proper import license. Check what kind of documentation is needed, how difficult it is to obtain and what import duties are levied before you embark on a bulk-buying spree.– Thomas Schmid (dukas)
What are your top 10 wholesale products from Thailand ? Share them with us in the comment section below!