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If you plan on sourcing from China, then taking part in the Canton Fair is a must! Every year, there are hundreds of different trade fairs held in China. Attending some of these fairs is an ideal way of connecting with Chinese suppliers and establishing a professional and personal relationship with them. Out of all the fairs, the biggest and the oldest fair is the Canton Fair.
Canton Fair is a great opportunity to see all those products from factories that are located in various cities in China and visiting each of them separately can take up a lot of time. Before you make your way to the Canton Fair, you should know what to expect and how you can benefit the most out of this huge fair!
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BIGGEST TRADE FAIR IN THE WORLD
The Canton Fair is considered to be the biggest Commercial Exhibition Fair that takes place across the globe. To give you a little perspective, in the spring edition of Canton Fair 2018, more than 25,000 wholesalers and companies exhibited their products. Similarly, more than 203,000 overseas buyers attended the fair.
Held after every six months in Guangzhou, which was previously called Canton, the fair is a major event for all sizes and kinds of buyers. Of course, looking for suppliers via Alibaba is a great idea, and you end up with great suppliers too especially if you are just a startup, however, going to trade shows in China guarantees you the best suppliers. And to make yourself familiar with trade shows in China, the Canton Fair is the best way to get started. Foreigners are welcomed warmly and it will surely have something for you regardless of which industry you belong to.
Canton Fair is held at a complex which is known by various names. The complex is called the China Import & Export Complex, but it is also known as the Canton Fair Complex and Guangzhou International Convention & Exhibition Center.
It is the largest modernized exhibition center present in Asia and is situated on the Pazhou Island in Guangzhou. The center incorporated high technology while also addressing ecological and human concerns. Situated on the Pearl River Delta, approximately two hours away from Hong Kong by train, Canton now called Guangzhou used to be the only port in China that was open to foreigners.
Canton Fair, the very first edition of this China Import & Export Fair was held back in 1957. It is co-hosted by People’s Government of Guangdong Province and the Ministry of Commerce of China. Organized by the China Foreign Trade Centre, the fair is held twice every year; once in spring and once in autumn, both times in Guangzhou.
Basically, the fair is an international trading event which is not only comprehensive, but also has the biggest scale, a highly detailed exhibit variety, a huge buyer attendance, and ensures a great business turnover. The event also has the longest history that any international trading event ever had.
While the fair has been established for more than sixty years, it has faced numerous challenges and has successfully met all those challenges without discontinuing the fair. Canton Fair promotes a trade connection between China and the world which in turn promotes the achievement and developments China has made over the years. In fact, numerous Chinese enterprises use the fair to explore the international market. Generally, the fair is taken as a symbol of China opening itself for the whole world.
The fair takes place every spring and fall. It is quite surreal to wrap your head around the size of the complex where the fair is held. At the Canton Fair, there is something for everyone ranging from the latest technological devices like virtual reality headsets to heavy-duty industrial tires. Here, you will find suppliers from all industries.
The Canton Fair Complex covers a total area of 1,100,000 square meters. The exhibition areas are divided into three areas: Area A, Area B, and Area C.
In Area A, the indoor exhibition area is based on an area of 130,000 square meters while the outdoor exhibition area covers 30,000 square meters. Meanwhile, in Area B, the indoor exhibition area measures 128,000 square meters and has an outdoor exhibition area of 13,600 square meters. In Area C, there is no outdoor exhibition area and the indoor area measures 80,000 square meters.
HOW TO GET THROUGH THE GATES OF THE CANTON FAIR
Attending the fair itself doesn’t really cost anything; however, you will need to apply yourself for a buyer badge which also doesn’t cost anything. Make sure you keep the badge safely because if you lose it, you will have to pay a few to get it replaced. Plus, the badge is valid for multiple sessions so you can use the badge when you return to the fair some other time.
To apply for the buyer entry badge, you will need to visit the official website of the Canton Fair. The website is quite easy to navigate and is available in twelve different languages. Everything is mentioned quite clearly, so the registration will not be too difficult. Once you land on this page, you need to click on the buyer section.
There are only three steps to apply for your buyer’s badge.
On the buyer’s web page, click on the Buyer E-Service Tool (BEST). This will take you to another webpage. On the top of the page, you will find the option to register. Click on that option, and it will take you to a page where you need to fill in your information. Double check the information you have entered to ensure it is correct.
Go back to the Buyer e-service tool (BEST) page and log in. Here, you will have to fill out more information so that you can get your badge.
To apply for the buyer badge, you need pictures of the following:
While applying, it is recommended that you don’t mention your primary email address in the application otherwise you will be spammed. Instead, create a new email address to mention on your application as well as on your business card. Use the new email you have created to contact potential suppliers. By the way, you should use email services other than Gmail as Google is blocked in China.
Once you submit the documents on the official site of the Canton Fair, and after your application is approved, you will have to log into the website again and apply for the invitation letter which you will be using to apply for the Chinese visa if you don’t have one. After a few days, you will get the invitation letter.
After you have the invitation letter, use it to apply for a free buyer badge. Go to the pre-application for buyers badge option and fill out all the information. Finally, make sure you print your badge receipt from the Canton Fair website and take it along with you when you go to pick up the badge.
Numerous hotels in Guangzhou are authorized locations for printing buyer badges. But you can always pick the badge from the fair complex too. Remember, the fair’s first day is quite hectic so you might have to wait for long to get the badge. If you arrive after the first phase is over, then the badge stations are not as busy as they are on the very first day of the first phase.
WHEN IS IT AND WHEN SHOULD YOU GO
The Canton Fair takes place two times per year. It is divided into three phases with each phase lasting four days to five days. Each phase also has products from particular industries. The Spring session is held from April to May while the Fall session is held from October to November. The fair is open up from 09:30 in the morning and is open till 05:00 in the evening.
It is essential you choose the phase which is best for you. Generally, people tend to choose phase 2 as it focuses on consumer goods. However, which phase is suitable for you comes down to the items you are looking for.
As mentioned earlier, the fair complex is quite vast and has three main exhibit halls along with additional outdoor space for more stalls. You will find more than 25 thousand vendors here belonging to various different industries. Following is a breakdown of the products you will find in each phase.
Phase 1 focuses more on industrial products compared to other phases and is more popular with buyers from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In fact, buyers from the US might also find some excellent product opportunities here. The categories found in this phase include the following:
The first phase is held from 15th April to 19th April and from 15th October to 19th October.
Phase 2 is ideal for Amazon FBA sellers as well as buyers in search of private label products. Categories you will find in this phase include the following:
Phase two is held from 23rd April to 27th April and from 23rd October to 27th October.
The third phase is based largely on textile and clothing. It is also the phase you are looking for if you sell notebooks and pens. Categories you will find in this phase are:
The third phase is held from 1st May to 5th May and from 31st October to 4th November.
GETTING TO ONE OF THE MOST DYNAMIC CITIES IN THE WORLD
Guangzhou is considered to be a megacity with numerous business opportunities as well as home to more than 14 million people. Despite that, direct flights to Guangzhou are few and comparatively costly. Thus, the two best ways to reach the city is either from Hong Kong or from Shenzhen.
Going from Shenzhen to Guangzhou is relatively very easy. You have two main methods of public transportation; buses and train. By train, it will take you from an hour to an hour and a half to reach Guangzhou from Shenzhen. Meanwhile, by bus, you will reach Guangzhou in approximately two and a half hours.
Before we discuss which train you should take to Guangzhou, let’s first talk about the railway stations present in Guangzhou. Basically, Guangzhou only has 4 railway stations:
There are two options for going from Shenzhen to Guangzhou by train. Take a train to Guangzhou South Railway Station from Shenzhen North Railway Station. Or you can take a train to Guangzhou East Station from Shenzhen Railway Station. However, you must know that the Guangzhou East Station is relatively much closer to the Pazhou subway station, making it much closer to the Canton Fair.
Since the Shenzhen Railway Station is only a block away from the LoWu Border shared with Hong Kong, the station is only a 5-minute walk if you are coming from Hong Kong. So in case you are coming from Hong Kong, you can just go to Shenzhen and take a train from there. The tickets for the train cost 79.5 RMB for one way, and the trains leave after every ten to fifteen minutes for the Guangzhou East Station.
You can get to Guangzhou from Shenzhen via bus. Buses depart from Shenzhen’s border terminals with Hong Kong. The bus ticket will cost you somewhere between 65 RMB to 75 RMB.
The terminals at Shenzhen you can take include:
Terminals at Guangzhou include:
However, both the subway station as well as the Guangzhou Train Station are quite far from the Canton Fair which is why it is recommended to take the bus as it is the easiest and fastest way.
Generally, there are more frequent flights to Hong Kong as compared to Guangzhou and flights to Hong Kong are comparatively cheap. Plus, Hong Kong itself is a world-class city which you should definitely visit once, so taking a flight to Hong Kong to get to Guangzhou won’t be such a bad idea.
Typically, flights to Hong Kong arrive in the late afternoon or in the evening so you might have to stay in Hong Kong for at least a night before you can travel to Guangzhou. However, if your flight to Hong Kong arrives in the early morning, then it is also possible to take a ferry to Guangzhou directly from the airport. However, while doing so, you should make sure you allow sufficient time for collecting luggage, passing immigration, and navigating yourself to the ferry.
Before making a decision to fly out to Hong Kong and then going to Guangzhou, remember that Hong Kong can be expensive. In case your budget is tight, you can make a decision by comparing the cost and time involved in staying in Hong Kong with the difference in the money if you take a flight to Guangzhou.
If you stay in Hong Kong before you go to Guangzhou, then the easiest method to reach Guangzhou is via the Kowloon-Guangzhou Through Train. All the trains departing from the Hung Hom Station in Kowloon arrive at the Guangzhou East Station.
There isn’t any direct link between the train station in Hong Kong and the Canton Fair. However, shuttle buses run from the station to the fair complex. Daily, there are twelve trains between the cities, and it takes around two hours to reach Guangzhou from Kowloon.
The first train of the day leaves Hung Hom at 07:25 in the morning and the last train departs at 07:24 in the evening. As for the tickets, a one-way ticket costs HK $210. You can buy the tickets twenty minutes before the train departs from Hong Kong.
Moreover, you will also have to set aside some time for border formalities. There are two ways to purchase the tickets; via the tele-ticketing hotline or directly at the station. If you purchase the tickets via the hotline, you will be able to collect them once you reach the station.
Whether you live near the fair complex or away from it, you will need to commute to the fair hall every day. There are many kinds of transportation methods with which you can reach the Canton Fair hall, and these are as follows:
Guangzhou has a vast Metro subway system which covers a large part of the city, and the trains are quite frequent. As a visitor, you will find a metro station almost near all tourist places. The subway line 8 is the one you should take as it stops at Pazhou stations where the fair complex is located. In fact, two stations serve the Canton Fair complex and these are the Xingang East Station and the Pazhou Station. Moreover, the fares are inexpensive, and even the longest trip will cost you less than USD $1.
At the time of the fair, you can purchase the 3-day unlimited pass. Or, if you are going to be staying in Guangzhou for more than one phase, then you can buy the reloadable card called the Yang Cheng Tong card. Since the lines can be quite long during peak times, having a card with you saves time and is hassle-free too.
When it comes to the subway, it is quite easy to use. For all announcements and signs, there are English translations too. You can also benefit from the phone app “Explore Guangzhou.” With this app, you can choose the station that you are at and the place you want to go. The app will show a map and tell you where you will have to switch lines and the time it will take to get to your destination.
Canton Fair time, there are hundreds of people at every station, and it becomes quite chaotic. In fact, during peak hours, the train can be so full that you will hardly have space to move. So, after a long day of so much walking, you might not want to deal with this.
One popular method for going to the fair and coming back from is the shuttle buses that many hotels provide. For hotel guests, these shuttle buses are free so when booking a hotel, make sure to check if it is a shuttle provider.
Compared to the subway, the shuttles have a number of benefits. While the metro is pretty crowded and there is a high chance that you will have to stand throughout the journey, you are guaranteed to get a seat on the shuttle.
Moreover, unlike the subway, these shuttle buses are air-conditioned. Of course, after you have had a tiring day in the humidity and heat, setting down a vent throwing cold air feels fantastic. However, it must be mentioned that a shuttle bus full of passengers might still be quite hot.
Like other transportation options, there is a problem with the shuttle buses too. Not all hotels facilitate transportation via these buses and the ones that do have a shuttle service are expensive and popular. And they are sold way before hotels that don’t provide transportation. Plus, the availability of these shuttle buses is also not as frequent as the availability of subways.
While navigating yourself through the Canton Fair is easy, it is difficult to figure out the time at which the bus will depart and the place it will depart from. So, trying to find the pickup location for your bus at the fair complex when you want to leave can be very confusing. The good news is, you will normally find English speaking guides in the bus so you can ask them for clarifications.
Another transportation option for getting to and from the fair that you might be familiar with is Uber. While Uber is used around the world, a similar application named DiDi is what everyone uses in China to hail a cab. Luckily, now there is an English version of the DiDi app too which was previously unavailable, so transportation around the city has become easy.
DiDi’s services, when compared to a taxi, are cheaper. And if you have already used Uber before, then you already have an idea about how to use DiDi. Once you set up your account, you can get the fare charged on the card you have on file. So, you won’t have to use cash or worry about getting back fake or counterfeit change.
Taxi drivers sometimes tend to take advantage of foreigners and increase the fares. However, with Didi, you will be able to see the route on your phone. Similarly, the GPS also tracks your trip. Plus, in case of any discrepancies with the trip like if the driver took a longer route just to make more money, you can email the customer service and ask for a refund. Moreover, while you wait for the DiDi driver to pick you up, you can track him. All these benefits are not possible with a taxi.
However, with such apps, you might have to wait long for the driver to come to pick you up because of the increased demand and traffic. Moreover, communicating with the driver and finding your destination on the map can be tricky if you don’t speak the local language.
Taxis are the most expensive transportation method in Guangzhou. It should, however, be mentioned that despite being the most expensive, the rates of taxis are lower than the rates you’d expect in other countries like the US.
Finding a taxi isn’t difficult at all, and you can find one easily at the train station and airport, and even at the fair. However, remember that you take the official taxi and ensure that the driver turns on the meter. Avoid getting into a black cab as it will try to extract a high sum from you.
There are many problems with local taxis. For instance, in some cases, drivers refuse to take you as a passenger. Especially during the time of the fair, the competition for taxis is intense, and drivers tend to pass you over for other fares.
With taxis, you will have to use cash. Plus, visitors tend to carry large bills, so you have to be pretty careful when you use a taxi. Make it a habit of counting and checking the change you receive from the driver to see if it is real.
In many cases, taxi drivers don’t speak English, so there will be a language barrier. To get past this, it is best to have a ticket which has the address written in Chinese characters. Also, you should keep the receipt that the driver gives you till the end of your trip in case you lose something in that taxi.
MINDEN INTL -HELPING YOU SOURCE PRODUCTS FROM CHINA
During the Canton Fair, finding a decent room in Guangzhou is pretty tough, and the prices of the rooms tend to skyrocket. If you book a hotel in Guangzhou beforehand, your travel arrangement will become much easier. While advance booking will not help you save a significant amount of money, it will at least help you secure a place you can live it during your visit to Guangzhou.
Of course, it is recommended to stay at a hotel that is situated near the Canton Fair complex or the Pazhou area. But the hotel cost is much more expensive. Which hotel you should choose to stay all comes down to your budget. In general, the closer the hotel gets to the complex, the higher the price of the room gets.
If you don’t mind the extra distance or taking a 30-minute subway to Pazhou, then you can choose a nice hotel situated a little away from the complex. It will not cost you a lot too. Hotels can play a big part in ensuring you have a worry-free and convenient trip to the Canton Fair. And you can book your hotels online beforehand using websites like booking.com and ctrip.com to avoid any problems later.
There is a town quite famous for people that attend the Canton Fair. It is known as the Pearl River New Town and features numerous western hotel chains at different price ranges. Moreover, traveling to and from the fair complex is also convenient as there are shuttle buses to facilitate travel. The area is popular for its nightlife and has various restaurants, shops, and bars. The area is modern and clean, and meetings with other Amazon sellers are also held here.
So, if you want to live in a lively and adventurous area are if your budget is more limited, then you could choose to stay at a hotel here. While it is far from the fair, it is a low-cost option. Plus, as long as the hotel is located near a subway station, you can inexpensively and easily go to and from the fair complex.
Apart from a hotel, you could also choose to live in a hostel or in an Airbnb. With places like these, you can get all the basic amenities needed, that too without exceeding your budget. However, you must remember some things before you go to a hostel or an Airbnb. As the time for the fair approaches, the prices start increasing, and the best accommodations available sell out pretty early.
In the end, whether you decide to stay at a hotel, an Airbnb, or a hostel, make sure you check its location and ensure it is near a metro subway station to make transportation around the city easier.
Taking part in a trade show which is as big as the Canton Fair can get quite overwhelming. At the fair, you will see numerous suppliers trying to showcase their products to grab your attention. With so much going on at the Canton Fair, it can be difficult to get past the whole day, particularly if it is your first time. To have a successful, here are ten tips you must definitely know!
All suppliers, as well as hawkers going on around the fair, will ask you to hand them a business card. So, when packing for the fair, make sure you pack plenty of business cards. As mentioned previously, list a secondary email address on the business card as these email address usually end up being mentioned in various Chinese mailing lists.
Make sure to have a spare box along too as most vendors don’t hand out their catalogs without seeing your business card first.
In China, installing WeChat is essential. It is a multi-purpose platform, and without the app, you will have difficulty with everyday tasks while you are in China. Primarily, it is used to connect with the suppliers and is the best form of communication.
During the trade show, you are expected to receive a lot of catalogs and materials from different suppliers. In fact, if you arrive in the early hours of a certain phase, then suppliers might even give you large gifts like tea sets. Thus, you need something comfortable so that you can carry it along. Roller suitcases, particularly with four wheels are ideal as you can push them along. Don’t worry if you have a two-wheel roller bag; it is still better than having to carry around a briefcase in your arms.
Another benefit of having a backpack or suitcase with you is that you can store spare bottles of water in them. High-end hotels tend to give plenty of water bottles for free, so make sure to put them in the bag before you leave the hotel for the fair.
One question that many people have is about their attire, and they should dress up for the fair. There is only one answer to this, and that is to dress comfortably. The Canton Fair involves a lot of walking and not only around the show but also through the metro station and in queues which is why you should wear the most comfortable shoes. Certainly, the fair is not the place for breaking into your new shoes.
If your hotel doesn’t provide a shuttle service to the bus, it is best to plan your transportation beforehand. A day before the fair, familiarize yourself with the metro if you will be taking the train to the fair. Know the timings as well as the duration of the trip from the station to the fair so that you can start your day accordingly. You can also ask the hotel staff to guide you on the best way to get to the fair.
Before you go to the fair, it is best to make a rough itinerary outlining the way you intend to spend your time at the fair. As mentioned plenty of times earlier, the show is massive, and you will have to make use of your time efficiently. Therefore, you should plan the phase of the fair you wish to intend and how you will divide your time in between the different categories you’ll find in the phase. You can also go through the floor plan of the hall to plot a course and set time limits for each category.
If you have a phone which is not carried locked and comes with the appropriate frequencies, then you should bring it along with you and buy a local SIM which will be of valuable use during the Canton Fair. Of course, there is Wi-Fi at the complex; however, it is quite unreliable and is very slow. Thus, with the SIM with you, you can make price comparisons and do product research while you speak to the vendor. This will help you save time that will otherwise be spent researching products after a tiring day at the fair. Plus, it isn’t bad to have access to apps like translators and maps outside the fair, so buying a SIM is a worthy investment.
You might already be aware that a majority of foreign internet services and sites are blocked in China by the Great Firewall. So, while in China, you will not be able to access websites like Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Google Maps, etc. However, there is a way with which you can bypass these internet restrictions, and that is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN works as an intermediary connection which lets you access sites commonly blocked in China.
Alternatively, you can also turn on international roaming as that will give you unrestricted access on the mainland.
Particularly, there are certain questions you must definitely ask, during the first meeting with the supplier. Ask about a unit price quote, also, ask the price with various quantity. Remember, this will only be a reference price and not the final price. Similarly, make sure to ask about the supplier’s payment methods. Many Chinese suppliers prefer a 30% deposit and a 70% balance before delivery. So, if you prefer to work with L/C payment, make sure you ask the supplier about that too.
Before you waste too much time with only one vendor, ask them about their minimum order quantities as well as if their MOQs would differ with different products. It is important to ask this question as some businesses here are large and only prefer dealing with sizeable orders. Finding a supplier that is willing to manufacture goods in your desired quantity will take some time, and you will have to question many suppliers before you find someone.
Lastly, make sure to ask about their shipping arrangements, the point at which the ownership of the item will change during the whole process, important certifications, the experience they have had in the industry, their biggest market and client, product safety and return rates, and the lead time. It is best you write down all your questions, so you don’t miss out on any important ones.
Traveling internationally to a place where you don’t speak the local language can be quite terrifying. The good news is, Guangzhou is set up well for English speakers. Announcements and signs are translated into English, and in restaurants, you will either find pictures or an English translation of the items which you can point at to the staff when it is time to place your order.
When it comes to the fair, most booths will have a staff member that speaks basic English at least. In fact, you will find young students and graduates at many booths. So, if English is your native language, then you don’t really need to hire a translator to ask the vendor common questions you might have. Try keeping your speech as basic and possible and avoid sarcasm and colloquial expressions.
When hiring a translator, ask about the past experience the person has with interpretation at the Canton Fair. Also ask about the knowledge he has about the city, as well as the business and exports. Hiring a translator. you can ask the organizers to get you connected with interpreters after you register with the Canton Fair. Alternatively, you can look online for people offering interpretation services during the fair. You will also find numerous translators outside the Canton Fair that are waiting to be hired. So, you can also talk to them and select the one you find suitable.
Generally, for an 8-hour day, you can easily get an interpreter in under USD $100. However, if you want an interpreter for longer, you can negotiate accordingly. Usually, you won’t need the translator after 6 pm as that is when the fair gets over.
This was introduced in section 2.1. While it is not required to do so, it is still best if you register for it beforehand. If you decide to register at the fair, then you will have to pay 100 RMB which roughly makes up USD $20. So, registering beforehand will help you save that $2o.
Plus, if you register in advance, then you will be informed about the importance of bringing along a passport picture and a physical copy of the badge registration. If you forget to bring those items, then it isn’t too much of a problem. You can do both the things at the show; however, you will have to pay $5 for the picture and stand in line too.
While attending the Canton Fair can be pretty overwhelming, the hassle and the effort is worth it in the end. Many companies tend to source their products from websites like Alibaba, but attending a trade like the Canton Fair is beneficial for anyone involved in the China products sourcing business.
At the fair, you can find multiple manufacturers of one product, so you can get the best prices and MOQs without having to wait for emails. Since you get to interact with the manufacturer face-to-face, you can get better pricing as well as a stronger relationship with the suppliers.
Similarly, you will find networking opportunities across the city. The Canton Fair is an invaluable experience, and you leave the city with a vast network that will be beneficial for your business.