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It’s Canton Fair Time! Tips and Advice

The Canton Fair will be taking place from October 15 to November 4 and many readers of this blog will likely be making their way down to Guangzhou. For those who are, and those are considering it in the future, here are some of my tips:

  • Registering before the fair saves time but you can register at the fair (especially important for those who are in a mad panic because they never received their invitation)
  • Make sure you attend the right phase of the fair.
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It’s Canton Fair Time! Pros and Cons of the Fair

Next week is the start of the bi-annual Canton Fair in Guangzhou, China. Starting on October 15, it will run until November 4 over three phases. The Canton Fair is the largest trade show in China meaning it is one of the most important in the world. During the Spring 2014 session, there were nearly 25,000 exhibitors (yes-25,000 potential suppliers!) and nearly 200,000 buyers.

I’ve attended the fair before and despite the fact that I will be in China during this time,

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The Alibaba IPO Isn’t Really an Alibaba IPO

All the buzz in the tech community recently seems to be about the forthcoming Alibaba IPO. Why? Because it could be the largest internet IPO ever, easily surpassing Facebook, Twitter, and other North American internet powerhouses. If you haven’t heard, Alibaba surpasses even Amazon in total sales.

For importers, Alibaba is all too familiar with us as the way to connect with Chinese suppliers (whether you swear by it or curse it). The first time I heard of Alibaba’s size and scale I couldn’t help but wonder how a site connecting factories and trading companies in China to those in the West could be that big.

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Guide for Using Alibaba to Import Products

Most people making the plunge into importing will begin with Alibaba. The Alibaba website is very easy to use and you’ll find countless suppliers in no time. There’s other websites as well but the advice here more or less transfers to these other websites as well. Even if you’re familiar with Alibaba, this section will help you with some things maybe that you didn’t know and reminders of things you did know.


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A Secret Weapon for Doing Competitor and Supplier Research (Part 2)

In a previous post titled A Secret Weapon for Doing Competitor and Supplier Research (Part 1) I discussed how you can use public customs data to do research on your competitors and suppliers. While it’s not hard to see the value in such information, this post will give a quick example of how valuable it can be.

Lets pretend you are in the automotive industry. One of your competitors is very likely to be Autozone Inc,

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A Secret Weapon for Doing Competitor and Supplier Research (Part 1)

If you’ve been importing long enough you’ve probably found a competitor selling the exact same product as you but at a lower price. You wonder if your competitor is simply sacrificing margins or if they’re getting their products for cheaper, and if so, from who.

Or if you’re just beginning working with a supplier and they tell you that they supply Walmart/Home Depot/<insert huge retailer here> and you wonder if they’re in fact being completely honest and really export to these companies.

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Guess what- there are factories outside of China! (and even in your hometown)

One of the main products my company imports is a stainless steel boat accessory. We’ve been importing these products for years and I’ve visited our main factory for these parts several times in China.

A couple of years ago, rather serendipitously, I had the chance to rekindle a friendship with someone who happened to be working in a factory building very similar products to the ones we were importing from China. I was floored.

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Dealing directly with a factory isn’t always ideal

So many people get caught up in the “I must deal with the factory only!” mentality. There’s some things to consider if you want to deal only with a factory.

1) If you’re dealing with the factory, they’re going to expect a lot larger orders. Are you prepared to make a considerable order?

2) The level of western-friendliness is generally much lower with factories opposed to trading companies. Horrible or non-existent English is to be expected.

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