My boyfriend and I went to the 117th Canton Fair Phase 2 this year (April 23-27, 2015) to discover what’s out there beyond Alibaba.com, to meet suppliers as a congregation, and know what goods to source from China. By going to the fair, I guess the main advantage is bypassing the long process of Alibaba.com and similar sites that starts from contacting and building connection with suppliers, collecting quotations, requesting for samples to be shipped from across the world, evaluating and testing samples, and so on.
In this post, let me share with you the things you should know when attending the Canton Fair. I hope that this will be helpful especially for first-time visitors.
15 Things You Need to Know When Attending the Canton Fair (Guangzhou, China)
1. What it is
The Canton Fair, also called the China Import and Export Fair, is one of the oldest trade shows in history. It is a comprehensive international trading event, an excellent place for sourcing and finding suppliers to make your products.
Visiting the fair is like learning about thousands of factories in the quickest time span and meeting suppliers face-to-face in a matter of days. Expect to find inside the most complete exhibit variety. This is the reason why many entrepreneurs see it as an annual pilgrimage.
Canton fair has three phases:
- Phase 1: Electronics & Household Electrical Appliances, Lighting Equipment, Vehicles & Spare Parts, Machinery, Hardware & Tools, Energy Resources, Chemical Products, Building Materials, International Pavilion,
- Phase 2: Consumer Goods, Home Decorations, Gifts
- Phase 3: Office Supplies, Cases & Bags, and Recreation Products, Food, Medicines, Medical Devices and Health Products, Textiles & Garments, Shoes, International Pavilion
2. When it is being held
The Canton Fair takes place two times a year: in Spring (April-May) and in Autumn (October-November). Established in 1956, this gigantic fair has been at the forefront of China’s industrial development and its rise to global manufacturing prominence. It was inaugurated in the Spring of 1957.
3. Where Canton Fair is located
Exact address of China Import and Export Fair Complex is No. 380, Yuejiang Zhong Road, Guangzhou. It is walking distance from Pazhou (琶洲) Metro Station (Exit A or Exit C).
Taking the subway is very easy, however, commuting (e.g. taking the subway or bus) requires patience, because both local and foreign buyers and exhibitors will be heading to the same direction. The first day of the fair is the busiest, so it’s not pretty advisable to “go to war” on the first day.
The Canton Fair is open until 6PM but note that on the last day, most suppliers pack up their booths as early as 12NN. Some of them sell their product samples at prices lower than retail so being present in the morning is best to grab your wanted merchandise.
4. How to get in
Admission to Canton Fair is free as a buyer. However, getting in is not as easy as getting in to a mall. Registration at the Canton Fair website is required. Here is the link.
In our case, we got our tourist visa to China via the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines and filled out an online form for us to receive the electronic invitation (Canton Fair e-invitation) and the pre-registration form to claim the buyer’s badge. As noted from their website, processing of registration takes three to seven working days. In my experience, receipt confirmation sent to my e-mail only took less than an hour.
The Buyer’s Badge can be claimed either at the appointed hotel/s or at the Canton Fair Office. We got ours from Ramada Pearl Hotel to avoid long lines of people expected to queue up at the Canton Fair Office.
5. How many times you can enter
You can attend the Canton Fair multiple times or every day while you’re there. It being the largest trade is enough reason why you cannot possibly cover every portion in one day alone if you are searching for many product categories. Just be sure that you map out the areas you want to hit to save more time and energy in walking the fairgrounds.
6. Where to stay / which hotel to choose
Book in a hotel months in advance, to make traveling arrangements easier, since most hotels will be fully booked. Also, it is wise to stay in a hotel that’s near or a few stations away from Canton Fair or Pazhou area. Look for hotels which offer shuttle service directly to the Canton Fair location for much convenience. In addition, booking months in advance will help save money since hotel rates go higher during the Canton Fair season. If you are really in tight budget, you can opt to stay at a hostel, but the standard is not as good in comparison with the hotels.
We stayed at Haiyue Hotel at No 16, Xinhe Street, Hengxin Road, Haizhu District (Jianghai Avenue). What I like about this hotel is that it’s relatively near the Canton Fair (4.2 km which is like 10 minutes away via taxicab) and the hotel offers free shuttle service back and forth. Here’s a review of this hotel for everyone’s reference.
7. How to communicate
If you don’t know how to speak in Mandarin or Cantonese, don’t worry. Most of the suppliers in the fair can speak in basic English. If you feel you need to communicate deeper in business terms, there are professional translators available that can be hired for a day for a reasonable price.
8. What to wear
Since you will be talking and dealing with potential business partners and suppliers, projecting a good impression of yourself is best. However, you don’t have to put your best foot forward and don in a business attire paired with black leather shoes or high heeled shoes. Since you will be walking around a very BIG area, wearing the most comfortable pair of flats or sneakers you own is completely fine.
9. What to bring
You will receive hundreds of brochures, business cards, and some product samples, so be prepared to bring a suitcase with wheels to carry them without burden on your shoulders. Note though that those samples from the booth may not be real samples of the final products but are more likely surpluses from the factory.
I recommend bringing a pen, notepad or notebook, and a stapler (to staple the business cards on the notebook’s pages) with you so you can easily make notes and markings and remember the suppliers that you want to meet again. In addition, writing the items and their indicative pricing information and corresponding vendor names on a paper-based or electronic notepad will help keep track of those you are really interested in.
You should be ready to exchange business cards, as this is one of things that represent your genuine interest in the business. Suppliers feel quite reluctant to deal with those who don’t give out their business cards and tend to not give out a copy of their catalogs in return.
To document your trip and the experience, bringing a handy camera is advisable for posterity and practical business purposes. You can also use your smartphone camera to take snapshots of the booth and product samples that catch your attention. However, some suppliers do not allow taking of photos. In this case, you may ask for a brochure or their website information to view the photos instead.
10. How to focus
With so many choices upfront, you feel be lost if you are not sure which product group you are interested to invest in. You should know the product standards to look for and determine the most viable price range to sell. On the other hand, it will help if you can also stay open-minded with other opportunities and seed relationships that may be useful in the future.
For us, the map provided in the information counter helped a lot in navigating the entire Canton Fair area. We had no problems moving from one building and one hall to another. Also, there are shuttles provided so people can transfer to the other side of the street via the footbridge without a hassle.
11. What questions to ask
Do not be afraid to ask questions. You’re already in the Canton Fair so it’s not the time to save your thought for some other day. Be direct and straightforward. It will be good if you can write down the list of questions you wish to ask suppliers ahead of time. 🙂
Examples of good questions to ask are related to the supplier’s main products lines, factory address and website, number of years in the business, main export markets, product price, minimum order quantity, lead time, biggest clients, product safety testing experience, product certifications, etc.
12. What terms to remember
|dispatch goods for delivery
|to get in touch with
|payment for goods
13. Where to eat
There are several fast food joints in the exhibition center, so you don’t need to travel far. You can walk around the halls and eat. Even exhibitors eat and drink while engaging with the visitors in their booth.
14. Why you should consider going
The Canton Fair is a great trade event of comprehensiveness and specialization. It exhibits over 150,000 kinds of quality Chinese products and overseas commodities with distinctive features. Exhibitors of the Canton Fair come from various industries in China and the world.
Chinese exhibitors of the Canton Fair boast good credibility and strength. Over 24,000 Chinese enterprises attend each session of the Canton Fair. Among them, manufacturers account for 51%; foreign trade enterprises account for 38%; industrial trade enterprises account for 10%; scientific research institutions and enterprises of other types account for 1%.
15. What to do after visiting Canton Fair
Canton Fair can be quite an experience. If your only interest is have business with the Chinese suppliers, the best thing to do after visiting the Fair is to talk further in detail with the exhibitors afterwards. Maybe you can sit down in a lunch or dinner meting and start building rapport or ask if they have time to tour you in their factories.
If you also came for pleasure, the rest of your time can be spent visiting the famous attractions in Guangzhou, China just like we did. 😉 Read this post to know about the places we have visited as tourists in Guangzhou.
This was our first time to attend the Canton Fair. We spent three days in Phase 2 looking for items and talking to suppliers, and within this period, our perspective on importing products from China has definitely widened.
After long hours of walking and with tired back and feet (ouch), we are truly happy to have experienced a purposeful trip where learned the process and some insider tips that we could have never learned by just reading articles online about trading (importing and exporting). Will we visit the Canton Fair in Guangzhou again? Well, yeah, maybe after two years. Its seduction calls us back. 😛
Feel free to share your own guide and experience in Canton Fair or drop questions below. For more information, check out the Canton Fair website, call +86-20-2888 8999, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.