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, 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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