My Mexican colleague, Daniela
Twice a year companies from all parts of China gather together in Guangzhou to make the biggest international trade fair in the world; the Canton Fair. More than 50 different industries take part in one of the three phases of the fair. This fair is so big that it lasts almost a month and it is divided in three different phases! It is the fair with the largest assortment of products, the largest audience and the largest number of business deals made among all Chinese fairs. There you can find from dog food to heavy machinery!
Me outside the Canton Fair building
The Canton Fair takes place in Guangzhou, South China; an immense city of more than 20 million inhabitants. This is the perfect location for the fair. Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong province, and part of the Pearl River Delta, one of the most prosperous regions in China with the highest number of exports in the country, 3 of the top ten busiest ports by number of containers. It also has several industrial hubs including electronics, house appliances, apparel or toys. Besides, its proximity to Hong Kong and Macau makes the area one of the most dynamic regions in the world with a GDP higher than countries like the Netherlands or Indonesia.
The best way to get to Guangzhou is by plane, with Baiyun International Airport being the best option. The airport is well communicated with the fair by metro and it is around 90 minutes by car from the fair. Hong Kong International airport is another good alternative to get to the fair, as Hong Kong and Guangzhou are very well connected by high speed train.
This is the biggest fair in China with almost 25,000 exhibitors and almost 180,000 overseas visitors during last edition. With some many exhibitors and visitors you can expect a huge fairground. There are actually three different main buildings with 4 floors each and extra tents outside the buildings because not all exhibitors fit in them.
Be ready to walk, visit booths, read catalogs and discuss prices with lots of suppliers. You will need to have your energy at 150% and be conscious of where you are. If this is the first time you are visiting the fair, expect to feel overwhelmed the first few minutes, just remember to take a deep breath, realize where you are and start looking for your right supplier and making business with them!
There are several food areas inside the fair, including Chinese and Western food. Remember the fair closes at 6 pm so make sure to go with enough time!
I have been in the fair several times and I have several tips for newcomers:
Do not be intimidated by language barriers. This is a fair for non-Chinese and exhibitors know that, so most probably you will make all the discussions in English. Some of them might even speak other languages like Spanish or Russian!
Bargain all you can! China is famous for bargaining, and this fair is no difference. Suppliers will set a high price as a first price; after that it will depend on your abilities to reduce the price as much as possible.
Some vendor will offer to go with them to visit their factories. You need to take several things into account! First, time: China is huge and as you can imagine traffic jams are very common, so expect to spend a whole to visit just one factory. More importantly, some supplier may take you to another factory saying that is their factory when it is not! It is very important to make sure you know 100% where you are going!
you go to the fair and find the right supplier for you, you like their products and agree with the price, so you say let’s sign a contract. Don’t! With a supplier you are making business for the first time it is important you are very careful. Check their products, their factories, their business licenses, etc. You need to make sure that what they are selling is exactly what they can sell. They might lie on their quality or their production capacity; they might even not have an export license making it impossible for them to export!
This is a great fair to know how business is made in China in real person and most definitely you will be closing several deals! Just take your time to prepare everything properly and enjoy the fair!
Find here how SBE Inspection can help with your supplier search during the Canton Fair!