As with every other spring and autumn in China, The Canton Fair takes place. The mecca for sellers and buyers can be found in the region of Guangzhou just for 12 days each season. You won’t find in other parts of the world a fair like this where more than 300,000 visitors and exhibitors alike reunite to get the best benefits for their e-commerce businesses.
The largest wholesale trade is so big that it’s split into 3 phases to cover every business category and satisfy every clients’ needs and interests. For over 50 years, the Canton Fair has offered incredible products at accessible prices ranging from automotive parts to home decoration.
Table of Content
What to know about Canton Fair before going?
Tip 1: Planning ahead
Tip 2: Organize your ideas
Tip 3: Before entering the country
Tip 4: Cost
Tip 5: Hotel options
Tip 6: I’m already in Guangzhou. How do I get to the fair?
Tip 7: I’m finally at the Canton Fair. Where should I start?
Tip 8: I don’t speak Chinese. What should I do?
Tip 9: Where can I exchange my US dollars?
Tip 10: Taking advantage at the Canton Fair
What to know about Canton Fair before going?
The Canton Fair is held only twice a year in Canton, Guangzhou, China. This means that a massive horde of people is expected in April and October. It’s estimated that during the last year more than 250,000 overseas buyers and exhibitors were present at the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre which is as big as 218 football fields.
Due to its popularity around the world, the fair is split into 3 phases. It’s of paramount importance you pay attention to the dates so you can attend the day that is convenient for your business.
During phase 1 you can find any kind of product related to electronics, household electrical appliances, automotive and parts, hardware and tools, lighting equipment, building materials, international pavilion, and chemical products.
Phase 2 is devoted to consumer goods, gifts, home decorations, general ceramics and toiletries. During these 4 days, Amazon sellers, in particular, are present to get the most of the fair. Whereas clothing, bags, shoes, office supplies, recreation products, medical devices and health products, food, and outdoor items are exhibited during phase 3.
During these days from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm approximately, business people take advantage of making new contacts and visitors see and try the best products China has to offer. According to the statistics, people tend to attend the fair massively during phase 2 since during these days they can find consumer goods. However, it’s up to you when it’s convenient to attend depending on your interests and business commerce.
The Canton Fair is the perfect place for new traders looking for suppliers who are ready to take the next step. If you already have a supplier who is going to exhibit at the Canton Fair, it’s recommended you attend so you can meet and greet them since the far is well-known for providing a friendly ambiance. New visitors to China are welcomed to enlarge their business and make new contacts as well as people who are mass-market consumer commodities.
Because we sell toilet seats such as bathroom sinks, mirrors, cabinets, wall-hung toilets among other pottery sanitary ware products, we typically attend phase 1. Our products are considered senior class so we won’t like you to miss the opportunity to meet us at the Canton Fair to see our innovative but traditional products.
Since the fair is so popular in China and its surrounding areas, we’ll provide you 10 useful tips so you can benefit from it and take your business to the next level.
# Tip 1 Planning ahead
Business people from all around the world decide to embark upon this experience every year. It’s not just any fair, but the largest one worldwide. You should plan this trip with a lot of anticipation and make a checklist of everything you’ll need to know about the fair and the country.
First of all, the fair takes place twice a year: April/May and October/November. Since it’s spring and fall respectively, the weather is very similar. It’s usually warm and humid so you’ll need to pack comfortable shoes and breathable clothing as you’ll walk all day amidst the different corridors at the fair. It’s also recommended to take a backpack with you to put into every material you receive from vendors.
There’s no need for fancy dresses or suits, you need to be comfortable walking all day long not only at the fair but also to the Metro station. So, a pair of cotton pants and sneakers will work well.
# Tip 2 Organize your ideas
Before putting afoot at the fair, you should’ve done your homework: decide which phase you will attend according to your specialized niche, determine which products you’ll look for, and make exhaustive research of potential suppliers through the Canton Fair website.
Don’t expect to enter the complex and start looking for products that may interest you or suppliers and vendors to get into a conversation out of the blue. Remember that the venue is huge and traveling thousands of kilometers just to wander off the corridors won’t pay off your trip.
You need to go to the fair with everything in mind, don’t attend just to see what suppliers have to offer or what all the fuss is about. At home, make a shortlist of candidates you’ll like to meet and talk to, write down some prepared questions you’d like to ask them, and prepare some business cards to give them as to remember you later on.
# Tip 3 Before entering the country
People from abroad will need for sure a visa to get into China. Once you’ve made up your mind of attending the fair you need to get into contact with a Chinese Consulate in your country as soon as possible since it may take a considerable time to get a Visa.
If you go to a travel agency, they may get you a business visa which is the best option for you if you’re interested in attending the fair every year. Business visas are valid for up to 10 years so once you get one you don’t have to worry about it for a long time.
You have your Visa, now you need to buy a plane ticket. The city of Guangzhou has an International Airport but you need to book early to get cheap tickets. Otherwise, you can travel to Hong Kong (it’s a different country but most Western tourists don’t need a Visa to get into it). From Hung Hom Station you take a train to The East Guangzhou Railroad Station which is pretty inexpensive.
Another crucial aspect to take into consideration is your internet server to get access to Facebook or Google while in China. Social media sites are censored in this country so you’ll have to buy a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for a couple of bucks per day.
# Tip 4 Cost
Attending the Canton Fair is a matter of investing money. You’ll have to pay for a visa- if you don’t already have one, buy a plane ticket and book hotel rooms while you’re staying in China. Besides that, the registration at the Canton Fair only costs around U$s 20 if you decide to register in person at the fair.
Otherwise, you can register for free online and save U$s 20. Once your registration has been approved, you´ll get your badge at the show which can be re-used for future sessions of the show.
At the show, you need to hand in a passport photo and a paper copy of your badge registration. In case you forget them, you can do it at the show for U$S 5.
Even though it seems you’re going to waste way of time and money it is far away from that. The Canton Fair is worth it since once there you can talk face to face with every vendor you’re interested in for a couple of days and ask for any sample to test the quality of the product.
# Tip 5 Hotel options
The Canton Fair takes place in the city of Canton (Guangzhou) at the Guangzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The venue is located in the middle of nowhere so there are not many restaurant options if you want to have lunch nor recreational areas to visit.
It’s not the case with hotel options. There are a couple of hotels nearby but they’re a little bit expensive since they’re the only options you’ve got if you want to stay within walking distance from the Complex.
If you don’t want to spend U$S 700 per night you can book a modest hotel room 20 minutes from the venue. Most importantly, staying at the heart of the city has many advantages such as shopping malls with restaurants and food courts which are not costly at all. You only need to take the metro to get to the city or book a hotel that offers daily shuttles back and forth from the fair.
# Tip 6 I’m already in Guangzhou. How do I get to the fair?
If you’ve decided to stay in one of the expensive hotels in the Complex area you just walk to the entrance since they’re located just 2 blocks away. If you want to save some money and book a hotel room at the heart of the city you have 3 options:
Take the hotel shuttle. You must ask for the shuttle bus schedule so as not to miss it and arrive late at the fair. Hotel shuttles are the cheapest option but they have very strict schedules when arriving and leaving the fair.
Take the metro system. It might be easy to get lost if you don’t study in advance metro stops and the route from the hotel to the venue.
Take a taxi. It’s an inexpensive option but if you’re a foreigner you must be careful. Many tourists have been conned since taxi drivers swapped out large bills for fake ones. In other cases, most of them don’t speak English and won’t understand where you want to go. A solution to this problem is to hold a sign with the name and address of the place you want to go to in Chinese and keep a selection of small bills to pay taxi fees.
Plan the route from the hotel to the fair and vice versa. Don’t trust Google Maps since it doesn’t work that well in China. If you do so, you’ll waste your time and spend hours to get at least a result for your search.
# Tip 7 I’m finally at the Canton Fair. Where should I start?
If you’ve done your homework correctly before the trip, now it’s time to enjoy the experience. Start looking for those exhibitors you’ve written down (between 20 and 30 suppliers will be ok). If you’ve taken down notes of the booth number much better, you’ll find them quickly.
Planning means once you arrive at the fair you know where to go, what to ask for, and what to do. Each phase takes 4 days for a particular reason and even though you’ve planned carefully every detail beforehand, it’ll take you between 3 and 4 days to cover the portion you’re interested in.
Start making new contacts and cross them out from your list to remember you’ve already visited them. Ask them as many questions you like and write them down. If you have the chance, ask for samples since vendors overflow samples of products you don’t even imagine they have.
# Tip 8 I don’t speak Chinese. What should I do?
It doesn’t matter if you’re in China and you don’t speak a word of it nor do you understand any street sign. Even though it’s recommended to hire a translator to attend the Canton Fair -which sounds logical- it’s not a must-to-do.
Every booth has someone who speaks and understands English so if this language is your mother tongue or foreign language you’ll get by perfectly. If you don’t feel confident, you can hire a translator in the booth in the lobby.
If you happen to come across a vendor whose English is a little bit rusty, you must be familiar with some terminology just in case. Some universal acronyms in the business world may help you if exhibitors don’t understand English:
- MOQ stands for Minimum Order Quantity
- Make sure vendors give a product price in your currency and not RMB
- Lead Time. Make sure vendors have in stock the products you’re asking for since in some cases they run out of some specific items and need to make them from scratch.
# Tip 9 Where can I exchange my US dollars?
As we told you before, plan and make everything ready for the Canton Fair. This advice is also valid when talking about money. It’s recommended to exchange US dollars for the Chinese currency in your own country since it’s less dangerous.
It’s preferable to exchange your currency in ATMs before you arrive in China. For one reason, even though there are plenty of ATMs at train stations and airports you never know if your cards will work on those machines.
There are foreign money exchange booths as an alternative but vendors may take advantage of you for being a tourist and give in exchange counterfeit Chinese bills. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to spend that money since people at restaurants or even the hotel will look suspiciously at you and reject your bills for being fake.
# Tip 10 Taking advantage at the Canton Fair
When attending the Canton Fair try to be an organized person. You don’t need to spend the 4 or 5 days each phase lasts trying to negotiate with vendors. Attending 2 days each phase is more than enough.
During the first day, try to contact as many vendors as possible from your prepared list. The following day, you just approach those suppliers you’re eager to make business with or have further questions such as about pricing, free samples, or if they accept MOQs.
Some exhibitors are reluctant to give free samples unless you visit their factory but on the last day of the show, while they’re packing everything up, they may happily give you some samples. Don’t leave the venue without giving your business card so they can email you back to continue negotiating.
The Canton Fair is the most important event for business people and you can’t miss the chance of your life in making new business contacts. It’s the perfect opportunity to find a suitable wholesale supplier for your e-commerce.
Once you attend the fair for the first time, you’ll become a regular customer since it’s an eye-opener. You’ll learn a lot as you go along and will have access to a new business world of imports and exports.
Have you considered attending the Canton Fair this year? If so, take into account these tips to have a great experience.