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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.

Canton Fair

Canton Fair Exhibition Grounds

I’ve attended the fair before and despite the fact that I will be in China during this time, I won’t be attending the Canton Fair this year. Time and distance (I’ll be in northern China) are part of the reasons why, but there’s also several other reasons why I won’t make the trip to Guandong Province. Here’s a short list of some of the negatives to the Canton Fair:


  • The focus tends to be on mass-market consumer products. I like to focus most on products on a narrow niche and while there is literally a supplier for everything, generally I find a trade show targeted to one niche (i.e. Camping, Solar Products, etc) to have a better selection of quality suppliers.
  • Too many buyers! The Canton Fair attracts hundreds of thousands of buyers meaning that there are likely to be competitors in your local market also considering the same suppliers you are considering. If a supplier is selling to multiple competitors in your market it can really drive down your prices.
  • It’s difficult to build a relationship with suppliers. Suppliers will be seeing hundreds of potential clients over the course of the fair. Your time will be divided amongst these other buyers and you quickly turn into simply another business card.


  • Lots of suppliers! With over 25,000 suppliers the Canton Fair is the perfect venue to get your feet wet in importing from China. You will find a supplier for nearly every product imaginable: just make sure you attend the right phase of the fair.
  • It’s well organized. Transportation to and from the fair is quite easy and accommodation rarely tends to be much of a problem (of course expect to pay higher prices for rooms). Registration is also straight forward and lineups are minimal given the size of the fair.
  • It’s the biggest fair in China. This means many of your existing suppliers may be there, representatives from most major industries will be there (i.e. shipping, overseas agents, etc.), and even your colleagues and friends might be there as well. Overall, it’s a great networking opportunity.



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  • Reply
    Paresh Patel
    January 27, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Hi David
    I came across your website by coincidence and I find it interesting and gainful. I am a newbie selling on Amazon and Ebay and want to grow. When you are selling online in these market places procurement and pricing are challenges difficult to meet. I am planning to April 2016 Canton fair 2nd and 3rd phases.
    You have done a wondeful job by creating valuable website. It is greatly helping to entrants and those intending to improt from China.
    I am yet to decide on niche. I hope I will find after visiting Canton fair. Can you provide some tips for Canton fair?

    • Reply
      David Bryant
      January 27, 2016 at 9:30 pm

      I’ve only gone to the canton fair once. It’s a hugely overwhelming experience. My best advice is set yourself some goals and don’t just wander around in a daze :) i.e. have a list of certain products you’re looking for and ideally research (and potentially reach out to) Suppliers before you meet them at the canton fair. Other wise you’re going to end up with a suitcase full of product literature which doesn’t mean a lot to you after the fact.

  • Reply
    phil denis
    August 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Canton fair is a good opportunity to source new suppliers. However there are every kind of suppliers you can hope: manufacturers and trading.

    The only way to verify their real business scope is to audit them on site after the show. To do so, you can perform a factory audit or a vendor evaluation. This is usually cheap (250 – 300 USD) versus the 30% deposit you will need to wire them to start an order.

    We provide this solution just for information anywhere in China and also in Asia. If some of your readers are interested… they can contact us on

    There are almost everything and nothing over there.

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