The Canton Fair is China’s the oldest, largest, and most representative trade fair held in the autumn and spring seasons in Canton (Guangzhou).
Canton Fair History
Since the first Canton Fair 1975, the event has grown host 60,000 exhibitor booths of China’s top enterprises, bringing in more than 200,000 buyers from all over the world, with an estimated business turnover value of 30 billion USD. Source
I’ve been attending the fair for a few years now and every time, it proves a great opportunity to catch the latest trends
, find new products
to sell, catch up with my current suppliers
, source for alternative suppliers
, and network
with other entrepreneurs.
Photo taken at my latest trip to the fair.
It is a melting pot of China’s largest and most established manufacturers, traders, and research & development firms, together with business owners, purchasers, and entrepreneurs from every country imaginable.
Remember that suppliers pay a lot of money to be there and they mean to do big business. Small businesses or those just starting out will find it difficult to transact with these suppliers. Nevertheless, it is still an experience I would recommend to anyone.
As an entrepreneur or business owner, surely you will find great product ideas, meet fellow entrepreneurs, and be amazed at what the world’s largest economy has to offer.
The Canton Fair is split into 3 phases
, each going on for 5 days.
Here are the dates for the 125th
Canton Fair Happening in Spring of 2019 with the product categories per phase.
Phase 1: 15th-19th April 2019
- Electronics & Household Electrical Appliances; Hardware & Tools; Machinery; Vehicles & Spare Parts; Building Materials; Lighting Equipment; Chemical Products; Energy Resources; International Pavilion
Phase 2: 23rd-27th April 2019
- Consumer Goods; Gifts; Home Decorations
Phase 3: 1st-5th May
2019 – Textiles & Garments; Shoes; Office Supplies, Cases & Bags, Recreation Products; Medicines, Medical Devices, Health Products; and Food; International Pavilion
For a more detailed list of the exhibitors and products, click here.
This article is a simple and thorough guide
for entrepreneurs and business owners to maximize your time and find suppliers at the Canton Fair to supercharge your business.
For non-Chinese speakers, attending the Canton Fair for the first time may be daunting, but rest assured that following these steps will make your trip worthwhile and worry-free.
We will be tackling everything from transportation and accommodation
, registration, things to bring
on how to interact
with Chinese suppliers, and how to bring orders into the country.
Warning - a lengthy article is to follow, but this is an accumulation of everything I’ve done and researched over the years about the fair, and the objective is to be the only guide you’ll ever need to read.
Hotel & Flight Booking
Where to Fly
It is best to book your flight and hotel early, around 2-3 months in advance. Plane tickets can get very expensive and the best accommodations tend to get fully booked during the fair.
Flying to Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou is the most convenient place to land, but you can also land in Hong Kong and take a bullet train
into Guangzhou which takes only 48 minutes.
Where to Stay
If your intention is solely to visit the Canton Fair, there are a few hotels conveniently situated a few minutes walk away from the complex. This erases the need to take public transportation which can get crowded during closing time. (around 5:00 - 6:00 pm)
However, Guangzhou is a wonderful city with much to do, places to see, and delicious food to eat. So for those planning to roam around at night, it would be best to stay in places near the Metro stations or areas not far from the Pearl River which are easy to get to and from using taxis.
How Long to Stay
The length of your stay is dependent on how many items you’re looking to source or suppliers you intend to meet. Staying for the entire phase may be a bit lengthy, but you will surely need more than a day to cover a significant part of the fair which spans a total area of 1,185,000 M2.
TIP: On the last day of the fair, some suppliers sell their display items or overrun stocks to the visitors of the fair. This would be a good opportunity to purchase samples to bring home, or items for personal use. We snagged samples, clothes, luggage, and food items for unbelievably low prices. It could be worthwhile to extend your trip to for that last day.
Things to prepare
A Chinese Visa is required to enter the country, save for a few countries. Find out if you need a Chinese Visa here
. It takes about a week to process and is simple to apply for. You can find the link to the application form and all necessary information here. Registration
You may pre-register for the Canton Fair
online to speed up the registration process. You’ll need to secure a Buyer’s Invitation Letter
and Buyer’s Badge
for every member of your company attending. Here is a great video
that walks you through the application process because the Canton Fair website is very tricky to navigate.WeChat
Since most messenger apps are blocked
in China, using WeChat
is the best method for communicating with companions and with people back home. This is also the easiest way to chat and connect with suppliers.Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Google Search, Google Apps, Facebook, and a number of other websites and apps are banned in China. However, you can access them through a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
Two great examples are SuperVPN
but you can find a number of others on the App Store or Google Play Store. Download more than one VPN before entering China incase any of them fails because you won’t be able to download them from there.Translator
For non-Chinese speakers, Guangzhou can be a challenging city as majority of the locals do not speak English.
Suppliers inside the fair would have an English speaking salesperson which is enough to discuss item specifications, but would be better to have a translator
for more complex discussions, in the form of a hired translator or a mobile app.
I recommend using Pleco
, a chinese dictionary mobile app that translates words and phrases, and works offline. YouDao
is a translator app that lets you input via keyboard, voice, and taking photos. It worked very well, but requires you to be connected to the internet. Both can be downloaded in the App Store or Google Play Store. Attire
Navigating the fair is physically taxing, so make sure to wear comfortable clothes
, keeping it smart-casual
which is what most attendees wear. A comfortable pair of shoes
is essential. Tools
Bring a pen
to jot down notes when meeting suppliers, and a stapler
for attaching calling cards to pages. This was a very effective method of keeping track of the booths and suppliers we visited, and allowed us to review them easily.
Bring business cards
– a good number of them. Suppliers will give you a card and ask for yours in return. TIP:
Create a separate email address
specifically for the Canton Fair. A number of people experienced receiving a lot of spam mail from suppliers, even years after the fair had finished. Avoid getting these in your personal email and use the separate email address on your card.
Aside from a backpack or handbag, its advised to bring a wheeled luggage to hold catalogues and samples. As you accumulate more handouts from suppliers, they tend to get very heavy. It may seem like a hassle to bring around, but your body will thank you later.
The fair complex has 3 major areas (A, B, and C) 16 halls, with some reaching 3-4 floors. Best to take a map with you, because knowing where to enter, where to register, and where to find your suppliers will save you a lot of time.
Navigating the Canton Fair
Getting to the Fair
The best way to get there is via taxi for convenience plus you can ask the driver to drop you off at entrances closer to your desired area for the day. Taxis cost anywhere between 12-35 RMB (1RMB = ~8PHP) depending on your distance from the fair. Most drivers would know the Canton Fair as 广交会 GuǎngJiāoHuì.
Taking the subway is more economical and you can get down at two stations on Line 8 at either end of the fair complex - Xingang East Station for the area A, or Pazhou Station for area B. However, it does tend to get crowded in the morning and at closing time.
Most of the suppliers will deliver Free On Board (FOB)
- which means they will handle shipping costs from their factory to the port of lading
(the port where the items go onboard a ship). Different suppliers will have their preferred ports from where you will need to arrange shipment from the port to your destination country with the help of a freight forwarder.
Another alternative is to have your goods shipped via air freight
for small and lightweight items that need to arrive immediately. Freight forwarders
are companies that organize shipments for customers and handles the entire delivery process from trucking, shipping, customs brokerage, and delivery. Taikuun
is a marketplace that connects you with trusted freight forwarders and helps you receive quotations for your shipments.
Always take into account shipping cost
when buying from suppliers in China as this can dramatically increase your costs when not carefully dealt with. Taikuun lets you compare quotations from different freight forwarders and helps you select the best one for your business.
You may also find Chinese freight forwarders in their booths commonly located in the bridgeway connecting Areas A & B to Area C. Different forwarders specialize in shipping to specific regions and countries. However, they will have to work with a local customs broker to successfully import your items.
For businesses that regularly import items for commercial use, it is recommended to secure an import license as soon as possible. You may find Taikuun’s guide for securing an import license here.Conclusion
There are other ways to search for suppliers in China that can save a lot of time, effort, and money. Attending the Canton Fair is costly and time-consuming. But if you come prepared
to maximize your time and resources, you can unlock amazing opportunities, source for quality products, and provide an invaluable learning experience for you and your business.