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Should you import your own lights?

Updated: Mar 7

5 reasons why maybe you shouldn't!

Modern traditional dining room with wallpaper lush curtains crystal chandelier and blue and red palette modern traditional style sartorial inteirors

The age old question: to import (yourself) or not to import. It can be so very tempting to order beautiful lighting from overseas sellers because the price seems cheaper, or they may have more stock, but the truth is that it can be a bit of a risk and it's one that I've never taken myself despite 15 years running my interior design business!

The main issues you should be aware of are the following:

  1. Price. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is (too good to be true). If something looks like a bargain then you need to take a step back and ask 'why?'. It is a scam? Are you buying seconds? What is the freight component - it may be exorbitant and the light was the fish hook to reel you in. In Australia we have industry standards, GST, and as we're along way from nearly everywhere freight is a massive part of the costs of goods sold here. These are reflected in local suppliers' prices, by trying to side this step may simply be delaying some of these costs and not actually avoiding them.

  2. Wiring. All lighting sold in Australia needs to pass Australian Standards. Not all lights from international suppliers meet these standards. In addition to that electrical voltage in NSW (and other parts of Australia) are generally 240v which may not be what you're buying from overseas. And finally, we have different plugs to most parts of the world and while you may be able to get around this with a converting plug, it isn't attractive or ideal. (Here's a great link to the different plugs around the world!).

  3. Warranty. Even if all went well on the other fronts and the supplier is legitimate and professional, if the light did have a warranty and something were to go wrong with your light fitting within the warranty period, getting that resolved may be extremely difficult. Returning it for a replacement will be at your expense. They may not accept your claim if you've changed the wiring to meet Australian standards. A lot can happen even if it's installed and works initially.

  4. Freight. The BAIN of my work life!! And I don't import - just local deliveries etc are painful enough! This is probably the most challenging aspect of ordering internationally. You'll have to track it (could be challenging), deal with any import duties and GST, you may have to deal with customs (depending on the materials involved), and unexplained delays (various festivals, strikes, international incidents etc etc etc). Nothing seems to ever be straightforward!

  5. Problems upon receipt. OK, so even IF it all went smoothly and your package/box arrives at your place in a reasonable period of time, you open and unwrap the box only to's the wrong colour. Or it's missing a piece. Or there are the right quantity of items. Or something's broken. I have had all of these issues arise many times locally over the years and I've always been able to sort it out. But, how will you resolve this if you've imported it? There may or may not be a path to resolution. If there is one, it may take a lot of time to get agreement from the supplier to send whatever is missing/broken and you have to go through the whole process again. I have heard way too many nightmare situations where other designers have taken the plunge and it did NOT work out well. I have also heard the occasional story where there was a happy ending, so it is not impossible.

While it can be pretty tempting to import your own light fittings, there are definitely some potential (and significant!) downsides. Would you take the risk? Have you successfully done this? I'd love to hear how it went!

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