You don’t need to be a china expert to know the biggest sourcing event happened twice a year in south china – the Canton Fair. They are the biggest and longest in history of this kind – not necessary meaning they are the best. ?Messy transportation, poor pick up arrangement, lack of meeting facilities….there is a lot to be improved. Some claim that Canton Fair is full of trader that just making profit by speaking English, while some said products displayed are just copying one and another. Yet, uncountable numbers of business are dealed and the fair is still the best chance for smaller size business to meet local Chinese suppliers. ?While betting change of this bureaucratic organization is not practical, let’s try to be opened and focus on the best way to benefit from this giant fair.
My career focus have been on China sourcing/supplier management and based on my uncountable numbers of visit to Canton and other fairs within the region, and now I would like to share my experience here to better prepare you to get the best from this event, comfortably and confidentially achieving your sourcing target.
Canton Fair is divided into 3 sections normally, and each has its own industrial focus. I am not saying which section is better than the other but to remind you that suppliers could response differently depends on which day you visit them. Think about this:
– 1st and 2nd day: ?The first 2 days they are well prepared, energetic, aggressive…..you could be more likely to meet higher level managers or the boss who can make quicker decision on your price and terms. ?However this is usually the days with the most of visitors, and you may not always get their attention.
– 3rd to 5th day: Less people, and the supplier are more physically and psychologically tried. However they are normally more available for you to introduce their product and manage to have a deeper discussion with you.
– Visiting at the last 2 days the biggest benefit is that you are likely able to buy some cheap sample from them J. I do not recommend going the last day coz it normally only opens for half day and in the afternoon it is already closing.
I normally visit on the 2nd day so that in case I meet someone or product interesting I could still come back to meet again. ?
Forget about the translator as long as you can speak some English. Most, if not all, of the supplier show up in Canton Fair can already communicate with you in English. Nothing fancy and not fluent most of the time, their English is good enough for basic communication. After all, you are not going to talk about Joint Venture or strategic partnership with a Chinese supplier you just met in Canton Fair!
Finding a place to stay in the Guangzhou city is not as much a problem as the old time. Still, you might need to book a month or two in advance especially for 5 stars hotel like Garden. In case you just make up your mind to visit right before the Canton Fair, check the hotel in Dongguan as well just in case. Those hotels know about their opportunity from Canton Fair and have good supporting service like shuttle bus or Limo directly to the Canton Fair location. ? You may likely get cheaper price than staying in Guangzhou.
Many ways to visit Guangzhou city and the exhibition center. You could either landed on the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, or take train/high speed train from Shenzhen or other major cities. I am from HK and for me the best, cheapest and comfortable way is to take the regular train from Shenzhen Louhu train station and in 1.5 hours you will arrive Guangzhou downtown. Just make sure you buy the first class ticket (~99RMB only) or you risk yourself standing on the train the whole trip. Be also reminded that the ticket box is very busy the first day morning of the Canton Fair. ?
Taxi in the city is also in good availability but the queue outside the train station is an exception. ?
Meanwhile, pay attention if your hotel is providing shuttle bus that you can make use to leave from the fair center. By the time the show finish, hundreds of people will rush to the same small location where supposed to be the pickup point of the shuttle bus. Let’s just hope it is not a rainy day.
A small tips on weather – dress less. Canton is situated in the subtropical and from March to almost December you have hot and humid weather. 28℃ with 90% humidity is quite common here. Of course you won’t look fun with your full gear business dressing and people will surely feel the respect behind, but you are also prefect fine to dress in business casual and jeans. ?
For me, it is the weakest link. Fast food is ok, but that almost all you could have. There is no better business meeting/discuss facilitate as in the HK exhibition center. Still, the exhibitors could grab a pizza and coke when meeting their visitor in front of their booth.
If you are visiting in the last day you would have good chance load yourself with a lot of sample. Unless you get ready with a big luggage otherwise I suggest you make good use of the courier express provider inside Canton Fair exhibition center. There are plenty of them locally. Some service provider like SAOS (www.saos.biz) provide sample management service to their customers so you will only receive all different samples in one shot with full tracking, product information, picture, source…etc. ?Making use of these services will make your trip easier. ?
I hope you enjoy the long trip to China. Guangzhou herself is an interesting visiting spot and renowned for its historical contents and modern development. ?Don’t miss the chance to visit Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau as well. They are all in about 1.5 hours distance by train.
Welcome to China.
By Ben Chu, from SAOS