Canton Fair - What is it, Why it's important, How to Conquer it

What is the Canton Fair

The Canton Fair is a trade fair that is held bi-annually (April and October) in the city of Guangzhou, China. The fair has been held continually since 1957. The Canton Fair is the largest trade fair in China, the largest attendance, garnering the largest number of business deals. Each event spans three weeks featuring different categories and functions. 

Size of the Canton Fair

I cannot talk up how immense of a trade fair this is. Let me put this into perspective, the Louvre in Paris has over 70,000 pieces of art spread out over 650,000 square feet.  The Canton Fair has over 55,000 vendor stands spread over 1,125,000 square feet.  Now remember, the canton fair has 3 phases, so if you were to visit every single vendor at the Canton Fair (I highly advise against doing that), you would be visiting close to 150,000 booths!

Canton Fair Phases

The fair is broken up into 3 phases. Here is how the phases are broken up:

  1. Phase 1: Electronics, household electrical appliances, machinery, lighting equipment, hardware and tools, vehicles and spare parts, building materials, chemical products.
  2. Phase 2:  Consumer products, decorations goods, gifts
  3. Phase 3: Textiles & garments, shoes, office supplies, cases & bags, recreation products, medicines, medical devices and health products

Why You Should Go to the Canton Fair

Now that the stage has been set for the Canton Fair. Let me make the argument why it is important to attend.  In Chinese culture there is a term called “Guanxi.” The idea of Guanxi is that relationships don’t supplement a business deal’s effectiveness; instead relationships are the foundations that business deals are built upon. So by going to the Canton Fair, and visiting either your current supplier or finding a new supplier, you are able to build a relationship and “Guanxi.”. Once you meet with your supplier and build your relationship. There are a few goals you should try to accomplish. They include:

  1. Discuss Cheaper Pricing: Higher margins for you
  2. Lower MOQs: Tie up less capital in inventory holding costs
  3. Improve Operational Efficiencies: Discuss packaging, add barcode, add poly bag onto product.

Strategies For the Canton Fair

 How do you conquer this massive trade fair? With the massive size and limited time for you to visit suppliers you need to develop a good strategy.

  1. Dress Code: The Canton Fair is surprisingly very casual. Jeans/shorts and a t-shirt will suffice. More importantly is to wear comfortable walking shoes. You will be walking miles and miles each day.
  2. Visit Your Current Suppliers First:

    Greet them and re-introduce yourself and your company. t's unlikely that they'll recognize you if you have been corresponding over e-mail. If you visit them early, you are able to return later in the phase if you think of further questions or issues you would like to discuss.

  3. Use IPhone Notes or Evernote to stay organized: Using apps to record booth numbers, email addresses, pictures of products, and pictures of catalogs. You will receive catalogs and business cards from every supplier you talk to. If you start collecting all of them, you will be going home with luggage full of them.

The Canton Fair should be visited by anyone who is currently sourcing from China or interested in getting started. You are able to immediately qualify manufacturers and see the entire catalog of products. You are able to discuss price, order quantities, and key operational tactics with these suppliers.